In sharp contrast to President Robert Mugabe’s call for elections this year, Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti on Wednesday said it’s impossible for the country to conduct early polls because the government’s coffers are empty.
Biti said the scant available resources cannot be channeled towards elections, adding the focus for this year should be the constitutional referendum and the country’s fourth census since independence, that is set for august this year.
President Mugabe, however, has remained adamant in the past few weeks saying that elections should be held this year with or without a new constitution.
The two MDC formations in the unity government say fresh polls cannot be conducted in the absence of key democratic reforms, including changes in the media, electoral and security sectors.
Biti said Harare is even struggling to raise funds to finance the 2012 census expenses, which he said is top priority.
On the economy, Biti said a total of $28.9 million dollars was realized by end of February from the sale of 8.1 million kilograms of tobacco. The minister said gold output declined in the same month by 11.8 percent from January’s output of 1,053 kilograms.
Testifying earlier before a parliamentary committee on agriculture, Biti said accused the country's political leaders of spending too much time bickering over less important issues and neglecting development issues.
He said the discord in the unity government exists because leaders have not put the country first, insisting they remain “entrapped in party political jackets”.
Biti said a Grain Marketing Board audit presented to cabinet two weeks ago revealed that the parastatal has been run down due to poor management.
He said if commercialized the GMB could be profitable as was the case with the Dairy Marketing Board and the Cotton Marketing Board.
Biti dismissed as rubbish statements by some ZANU-PF supporters that his ministry is not supporting agriculture.
He said some of the government’s past interventions in agriculture have been destructive.