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Biti, Chinamasa Clash Over Zimbabwe Referendum Funds

Finance Minister Tendai Biti
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa is insisting the government has enough funds to finance the March 16 constitutional referendum as an adamant Finance Minister Tendai Biti maintains that state coffers are empty and cannot pay for the constitutional vote as well as national elections expected to be held later in the year.

Mr. Chinamasa told VOA Studio 7 on Tuesday that government has secured enough funds for the referendum contrary to assertions by Mr. Biti that the country is still looking for funds to conduct the national event.

The minister said what is now left is to disburse the resources to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to enable the electoral body to start preparing for the referendum on the announced date.

But Biti told a news conference in Harare on Monday that the government’s purse is empty.

With this discord in government, political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, challenged Mr. Chinamasa to reveal the source of the funds, especially following statements by Mr. Biti that revenue from the sale Marange diamonds is not being directed to treasury.

ZEC says it requires $85 million to successfully run the referendum scheduled for March.

However, the referendum may be delayed if the High Court rules in favor of the National Constitutional Assembly which is seeking an order compelling the state to give Zimbabweans at least two months to scrutinize the draft constitution before a referendum is called.
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Meanwhile, lawmakers across the political divide were united Tuesday in condemning re-surging political violence in the country, urging the police and unity government principals to ensure perpetrators are brought to book.
This, they agreed, would ensure the country holds a peaceful referendum and general elections.
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