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UN Team to Visit Harare For Electoral Funding Talks

The United Nations says it will visit Zimbabwe next week to see how the international body can support the constitutional referendum slated for March and a general election later this year.

Two weeks ago the UN resident coordinator in Harare received an official request from the government of Zimbabwe for help in raising US$225 million to fund both the referendum and election.

The request went to the UN Focal Point for Electoral Assistance at the UN Headquarters in New York, which said Monday that it has reviewed the request and will send a team to Harare to conduct what it calls a “needs assessment mission.”

Any follow up, according to the UN, must be guided by the findings of that mission. Harare officials told VOA that the UN visit is sparking fears that the UN may not provide Zimbabwe with the resources it is requesting.

Director, Tawanda Chimhini of the Electoral Resource Centre told VOA that the UN is simply following its standard procedure to make its own assessment of such requests.

With the funding question unclear, President Robert Mugabe is urging the country to use diamonds and other tangible resources to fund the voting.

Officials have also asked local firms to make donations. In an interview in Friday's Herald newspaper, Mr. Mugabe confirmed that he rejected suggestions from Finance Minister Tendai Biti to postpone the referendum to allow for more time to acquire funding.

Meanwhile, the High Court on Friday postponed until Monday a ruling on the urgent chamber application filed by the National Constitutional Assembly, requesting that the referendum date be pushed back.

NCA lawyer Alec Muchadehama told VOA that judge president George Chiweshe pushed back the ruling because he had other pressing commitments.
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NCA's application asks the High Court to set aside the March 16 referendum date and order President Mugabe to give voters no less than two months from the set date of proclamation, which came only last week.
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