Is Zanu-pf snub of elections funding official Zimbabwe policy?

OPINION – The recent snub of EU and UN funding for elections by Zanu-pf should not be taken as official Zimbabwe policy because it was not sanctioned by the coalition government, at least until the other parties publicly endorse that position.

The recent snub of EU and UN funding for elections by Zanu-pf should not be taken as official Zimbabwe policy because it was not sanctioned by the coalition government, at least until the other parties publicly endorse that position.

Regrettable

It is regrettable that Zanu-pf hardliners reportedly ‘turned down’ an offer by the United Nations to fund and supervise elections in Zimbabwe, accusing the UN of siding with Alassane Quattara of Ivory Coast instead of the loser in that country’s elections Laurent Gbagbo whom Zanu-pf credited with fighting ‘the imperialist West’.

Rather than allow Zanu-pf’s weird foreign policy transform Zimbabwe into an appendage of Laurent Gbagbo’s ‘Ivory Coast’, the Prime Minister and President of the Movement for Democratic Change of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai who won the 2008 elections should spell out the correct position of what was agreed in cabinet on this issue.

Budget deficit

Ideally, the MDC should directly follow-up the funding with the UN before it is committed for other use because Zimbabwe cannot afford the arrogance of turning down help when it has a budget deficit of US$150 million and also faced with a request for US$400million by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for elections.

Ironically, President Robert Mugabe has used an estimated US$12 million in 3 months in private travel to Singapore reportedly for medical treatment when the government cannot pay salaries. For instance, on average, depending on grade, civil servants who have threatened to go on a ‘mother of all strikes’ in June, earn between US$240 and US$520 per month against the Poverty Datum Line of  US$520 (Daily News, 28/04/11).

Diaspora vote

Part of the reason why Zimbabwe would need outside funding is to meet some preliminaries for the planned referendum and elections such as guaranteeing the Diaspora vote i.e. the right of an estimated 3 million people outside Zimbabwe to vote in the forthcoming referendum and harmonised elections. It appears the recently agreed  roadmap is silent on the Diaspora vote. In view of the fact that Zanu-pf’s ‘war veteran’ Jabulani Sibanda has threatened to force-march people to re-join his party and vote for it, the importance of the Diaspora vote in the upcoming referendum and election cannot be over-emphasised.  

I would like to assure the coalition government in Harare that we will make the loudest noise if they ever try to disenfranchise Zimbabweans who are in the Diaspora by using lame excuses of inadequate funding for elections which they are turning down but at the same time urging exiles to repatriate their hard-earned money.

Impartial Chief Elections Officer

Similarly, security sector reforms needed which may need funding includes redundancies in the army, air force, police, prisons and intelligence services whose continued presence in the new dispensation does not instil confidence. At the same time the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the office of the Registrar General obviously need a complete overhaul especially the appointment of an impartial chief elections officer.

For example, in 1991 Lesotho had to approach the United Nations for assistance in the recruitment and appointment of an expatriate Chief Electoral Officer after extensive discussion on the modality of appointing the country’s Chief Electoral Officer whose impartiality and general acceptability would ensure confidence in the electoral processes leading to the return to democratic civilian rule (Professor L Adele Jinadu, Africa Journal of Political Science, 1997, Vol 2, No1, 1-11).

Unless it has something to hide, Zimbabwe should not shy away from EU and UN funding for elections as operational costs especially logistics for electoral administration can be can be so prohibitive that even the state may not have the funds. For example, in the 1991 Zambian elections, funds and logistical support were provided by a consortium of western European countries. In Ghana, during the 1992 elections, a number of foreign countries and international organisations also assisted with funds and grants (Ibid).

In March 2010, the EU provided 960,000 Euros to Georgia to help the country ‘in conducting free, fair and credible elections’ according to a press release of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia (www.enpi-info.eu).

Two sets of elections

Iraq got assistance from the European Commission to the tune of 30 million Euros in preparation for elections in 2005. The Commission financed 100% of the United Nation’s requirements for preparation of the referendum in that country and together with member states financed nearly two thirds of the UN’s budget for preparation of the two sets of elections (www.europa-eu-un-org, 21/10/05).

In 2006 the EU funded television and radio broadcasts to Belarus ahead of presidential elections after accusations that the EU was unwilling to take tough action against the authoritarian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus (www.rferl.org, 11/01/06).

Special training programme

Next month, twelve Egyptian and 12 Tunisian journalists are due to attend a special training programme on the electoral process in the United Kingdom’s Welsh Assembly elections and Scottish parliamentary elections on 5 May, as part of the UE-funded European Neighbourhood Journalism Network (ENJN) project (www.enpi-info.eu, 14/04/11).

The European Union funded the Palestine Central Elections Commission (CEC’s) mock election in West Bank high schools in 2009.  The project was administered by the CEC in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education as well as UNRWA schools (www.humanityvoice.net, 13/05/09).

Of course there are times when some countries are more convincing when they decline foreign assistance. For example, early this year, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo said that his government would be financing the country’s general elections due to be held this year and ruled out the need for funding by donor agencies.  He, however, gave an assurance that anyone desirous of monitoring would be welcome, with no restrictions placed on their monitoring activities.

Confidence in Guyana’s electoral processes

The EU expressed confidence in Guyana’s electoral processes and confirmed that the EU  would not be funding or monitoring Guyana’s upcoming elections. Monitoring bodies will most likely be the OAS, CARICOM and the Commonwealth (www.guyanachronicleonline.com, 09/02/11).

While the foregoing may not be exhaustive, it goes to show that election funding by the EU and the United Nations is standard practice if the recipient country has a genuine need like Zimbabwe does. Until the correct position is officially confirmed by the coalition government, the question will continue to be asked: ‘Is Zanu-pf snub of elections funding official Zimbabwe policy?’

Contact Author: zimanalysis2009@gmail.com