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PM's Office Shifts Blame to Electoral Commission Over Stalled Voter Drive

While the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) blamed government for failing to release funds for voter registration last week, the prime minister’s office says the commission caused the delay.

Voter registration was supposed to take off on January 3, but Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office revealed Tuesday that ZEC submitted its budget only a day before, on January 2.

Mr. Tsvangirai was tasked by government to lead preparations for the next elections and make sure the electoral body gets funds totaling $ 21 million.

But the prime minister was the source of blame after ZEC deputy chairperson Joice Kazembe appeared to accuse the treasury for not allocating her commission the much-needed funds.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa directly blamed Mr. Tsvangirai’s office for the voter registration still-birth saying he had not fulfilled his mandate to look for funds for the exercise.

But Tsvangirai spokesman William Bango told VOA any attempts to heap the blame on the prime minister are dishonest.
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Bango said the proposals are still yet to be tabled by the responsible parties.
Mr. Tsvangirai will this Thursday meet with the ministers of finance and justice and ZEC officials to discuss the voter registration budget.

Tawanda Chimhini, director of the Election Resource Centre, said ZEC must be independent in order to execute its mandate.

"The confusion is very distrubing, like we have always mentioned in the past. If you are looking at an election management body the expectation is that it is as independent as possible. Now you have a commission in Zimbabwe which is said to be independent that cannot function because it has not been allocated resources," said Chimhini.
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The ZEC and justice ministry officials say the whole exercise would cost US$21 million. But treasury says for now it can release only US$3 million, only enough for the initial launch.

ZEC expected to run its voter program to expand the voter registration and verification exercise until April.