Thursday, July 11, 2013

Zimbabwe: Finance Minister Biti Pleads With Mugabe On Diamond Revenue

Finance Minister Tendai Biti Wednesday repeated his call for President Robert Mugabe's intervention, as the cash-strapped Treasury struggles to raise funds for elections on July 31st.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa Monday, Biti said Mugabe should come on board, especially on the issue of revenue from the (Marange) diamonds, which was not being remitted to Treasury.
"We don't have money for these elections, and everyone knows it. It's a horror movie except that you are not watching the movie, you are part of it," Biti said.
Delivering his mid-term statement at a press conference Wednesday, Biti repeated his appeal for strong leadership to ensure that diamonds funds are remitted to Treasury to help fund the elections.
"On election funding, the total budget is $130 million dollars and this is a comprehensive budget covering a lot of things to do with the elections.
"The biggest components of this budget are the per diems (allowances) that are paid to civil servants.
"The second are the logistics of transporting people to the centres, followed by the actual election logistics: ink, printing of the ballot papers, preparations of the polling stations, and then the purchase of the translucent ballot boxes.
"There is also the stationery used by the presiding officers and the security, plus the capital equipment used by the polling officers, the computers and vehicles," the minister said.
The minister revealed that as part of the election budget he had released $30 million for the two voter registration campaigns. However he said following the sitting of the Nomination Court, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had new expenses.
"First identification and advertising of polling stations secondly, because the law says special voting must take place 15 days before the elections, it means that ZEC must now print and publish the ballot papers with the names of all the candidates before the special vote.
"So we have given them money for that. A lot of you keep asking that 'you have given $11 million for the special voting', it's not for the special voting, it's for the elections," Biti said.
He explained that the printing of the ballot papers is for the entire election, of which the special voting is a part. But he said despite releasing the $11 million, the country was far from meeting the target, with an estimated shortfall of almost $90 million dollars.
To make matters worse, the minister said Zimbabwe could not "borrow as the market was crowded out by the $40 million we borrowed for the referendum".
"And we can't increase taxes as this will just increase the burden on an economy that is already suffering under the weight of the uncertainty of elections.
"But as I have already said, there is need for elections and we will get money for the elections yesterday. First: leadership around diamonds. Diamond exports by end of June exceeded $300 million and half of that belongs to us because we are a 50% shareholder. That would give us more than we need for the elections," Biti said.
Biti also indicated that his fundraising efforts were constantly being frustrated by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa who was following up on, and threatening, potential donors from the west.
"So I need protection and we need leadership on these two issues. I have already written to President Mugabe to say we need leadership on diamonds and on the Chinamasa issue," he said.
On Monday this station reported that the Treasury had already frozen government payments to suppliers, in a bid to raise money for the elections. Biti said he was also speaking to the SADC Secretariat for possible funding.

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