By Richard Muponde
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has dealt opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa another blow after allocating a paltry $2,3 billion to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), an amount inadequate to conduct by-elections next year.
Chamisa lost 32 MPs and 165 councillors to recalls by rival MDC-T faction led by Thokozani Khupe.
He has been itching for by-elections that were already suspended on October 2 by Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga, citing COVID-19 fears, in order to regain lost political ground.
But his dream appears shattered after Zec disclosed it is financially incapacitated to run the parliamentary and council by-elections after Treasury allocated the electoral body only $2,3 billion for electoral activities for 2021 against a demand of $12 billion.
In his remarks at a post-budget consultative meeting on Thursday before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Zec chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana said the electoral body was in financial doldrums to hold any credible by-election unless the government provides the $12 billion needed for the exercise.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube allocated Zec $2,3 billion in the 2021 National Budget against $12 billion which the commission had said it wanted for electoral activities in the coming year.
Silaigwana pleaded with Parliament to persuade Treasury to adjust the commission’s 2021 budget allocation warning the much-awaited by-elections will remain a pipe-dream without the funds.
“We are very truthful when we say we need $12 billion instead of the $2 billion which is just a drop in our budget. It does not help us much,” Silaigwana said.
Asked by Chegutu West legislator Dexter Nduna whether it meant Zec was currently not operational without the $12 billion, Silaigwana said: “Sure.”
“We also highlighted that the allocation was not adequate to support our programmes that encompass delimitation and the by-elections for the coming year and beyond.
“What was allocated against the bid is only a total of 19% hence our cry for the committee to assist the commission so that it will be able to realise its obligations.”
His sentiments were echoed by Zec chief inspector, Jane Pamhidzirai Chigidji who said the commission’s capacity to conduct credible electoral activities will be questionable if it was poorly funded.
“It’s a drop in the ocean if we are to have credible elections,” Chigidji said.
“So we are just appealing to Parliament to discuss this issue so that at the end of the day, we are able to carry out our duties and conduct credible elections.
“There are delimitation issues that have to be dealt with before we have an election. Can we then have a credible election if we don’t consult stakeholders?”
Silaigwana also advised the legislators that efforts to engage Treasury on the issue have not yielded desired results.
Political analyst, Professor Austin Chakaodza, however, said the underfunding of Zec was a calculated move by President Mnangagwa to avoid the by-elections at all cost.
“The political landscape has never been even since Zimbabwe attained its independence in 1980,” Chakaodza said.
“As such, the political landscape will continue to disfavour the opposition movement of Zimbabwe.
“The levelling of the playing field can’t be achieved through the current approach towards politics where there is a suspicion that the ruling party will dictate what Zec must do, including when and how elections should be held”
He said there is a mutual desire between the ruling party and Zec to pursue an uneven political playing field in Zimbabwe.
“The current political landscape will continue to be bad news for all opposition parties in Zimbabwe including the MDC -T and MDC alliance,” he said. NewsDay