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Broke Zimbabwe Divided Over External Election Funds

Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s move to seek external funding for elections has become the latest controversy in the government of national unity.

Biti told participants at a 2013 national budget consultative meeting in Bulawayo Friday that treasury coffers are empty, meaning the government has no money for the constitutional referendum and general elections that President Robert Mugabe wants held next March.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says US$104 million are needed to bankroll the referendum alone.

Biti says he will turn to countries such as the United Kingdom, Norway and China or organizations such as the United Nations to ask for assistance.

The finance minister’s position has, however, courted sharp criticism from some in Zanu-PF who fear donors may place unacceptable conditions on Zimbabwe, such as demanding to observe the election process and “interfere with the country’s politics” if they fund the poll.

Senior cabinet ministers are expected to meet Monday for a pre-budget consultation with Biti, when Zanu-PF ministers are expected to confront biti on the issue.

However, political scientist John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe says Zanu-PF’s objections are ill advised.