By Maxwell Sibanda
Finance ministry’s allocation of just $9,8 million dollars to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) for the year 2017 is a reflection of the State’s lackadaisical approach towards democracy in Zimbabwe, commentators contend.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava said meagre allocation — at a time the country is preparing for polls in 2018 — indicates the fact that government has deliberately refused to commit adequate funds for the process.
“We reiterate our call to the government to resource Zec adequately . . . they have always called for the adequate resourcing of Zec as one of the fundamental reforms that contribute to the holding of credible elections in Zimbabwe,” she said.
“Lack of funding to implement key electoral processes has a huge bearing on . . . elections. There are key electoral processes such as voter education, voter registration and actual polling that shouldn’t be compromised by lack of resources,” Chipfunde-Vava said.
Zec has said it needs at least $50 million to adequately prepare for the 2018 polls.
Election Resource Centre (ERC) director Tawanda Chimhinhi said compared to what other governments in the region allocate to their election management bodies in between elections, the $9,8 million was a mockery.
“Investments in elections are never done in the year of the actual elections but in the run up to the election year, hence 2017 is the year in which most critical aspects of the 2018 elections will be conducted, including voter registration and voter education.
“The quality of these two processes alone is a direct function of the resources invested.
“With limited funds, Zec would need to compromise quality issues such as the reach of its voter education, the number of days teams will be deployed to conduct the exercise and the materials used to disseminate information not forgetting the model of voter education to be used.”
He said with limited resources, Zec will have limited options in coming up with a credible voters’ roll and ensuring that the process of registration is as accessible to all eligible voters.
Adding that the current allocation to Zec will only be able to cater for salaries and limited operations without even considering by-elections.
“Coming from the same government that has committed to supporting biometric voter registration set to commence next year, the decision by the Finance ministry is a clear message that government may not be sincere in its assurance to development partners around improving future elections.
“That being said, and in the wake of limited resources for elections, Zec must pronounce itself on the resources required to prepare for and conduct credible election processes and clearly state that in the absence of the necessary resources it will not be in a position to fulfill its constitutional mandate and thus cannot hold elections as the Constitution is clear on the type of election Zec must hold.”
“ . . . Zec must review its internal budgets so that resources are used in a sustainable manner. Zimbabwe’s current cost per voter is above $22 which is way above the average regional rate.”
Chimhini said the bulk of Zec costs currently go towards allowances for civil servants deployed to conduct election processes.
“The suggestion is not that government workers should not be paid for the work they put in but that the allowances must be affordable and consistent with international practice.” Daily News