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Zimbabwe Parliament Opens Amid Street Protests

More than 500 members of activist group, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), staged a peaceful protest outside parliament Tuesday as legislators arrived in the august house to resume sitting following its adjournment.

The WOZA women demanded a speedy completion of the constitution-revision process and other issues.

The legislators returned two weeks after the presentation of the $3.8 billion 2013 national budget by Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

WOZA coordinator Jenni Williams said the demonstrators managed to present their petition to the Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma.

Williams said unity government principals should lay their hands off the draft constitution and focus on water problems affecting the majority of people in urban areas.
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Meanwhile, presenting the parliamentary budget committee’s report about the 2013 national budget, chairman Paddington Zhanda, said the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) is the fairest way of distributing money for capital development throughout the country.

Zhanda said while some legislators abused the fund in the past, most had used it for capital projects.

He expressed concern over treasury’s failure to disburse CDF money in 2011 and 2012 despite making provisions for such funds in the budget.

Several legislators are under investigation for abusing the fund which was launched in 2010.

Under the scheme, each of the 210 legislators in the lower house receives $50,000 for development projects in their areas.

Zhanda also questioned the running of the Distressed Industries and Marginalized Areas Fund created last year to resuscitate struggling companies, saying there is no deliberate marginalization of companies in Bulawayo.

Both houses of parliament are expected to pass the budget this week before breaking for the Christmas holidays.
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Elsewhere, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said its proposed vote in the 2013 national budget is not enough for conducting the referendum and harmonized elections expected to be held next year.

ZEC is expected to get $50 million in the 2013 national budget, a far cry from more than $200 million the commission says it needs next year.

Chairman Solomon Zwana of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network told VOA Studio 7 that Harare must find resources required by the commission to ensure they smoothly run the referendum and national polls.
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