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Zimbabwe election fiasco: Phantom South African loans and no date
Simon Ellison, Daily Maverick
April 19, 2013
View this document
on the Daily Maverick website
got a bit of a problem. It’s meant to be having elections
this year (well it was meant to have elections last year, but they
got delayed). This should, in theory, be a positive step for a country
still reeling from the chaos precipitated by the last election.
It should be the culmination of the long and often torturous political
process which has gone a long way towards stabilising the country
and improving its economy, as well as forcing the country’s
two major parties to share power (some of it, anyway).
on a new constitution, held in March, was successful. The voting
was largely peaceful, and the new constitution was overwhelmingly
approved – even though it is a deeply flawed document. The
constitution was the last hurdle that needed to be overcome before
elections could be planned.
And elections are being
planned. President Robert Mugabe has said the big day will be on
29 June, and – power-sharing or no power-sharing – he
still tends to get what he wants.
Money, of course. Zimbabwe
hasn’t got any, and the little it could spare went towards
conducting the referendum. “We essentially, for lack of a
better word, raped the economy for the referendum,” said finance
minister Tendai Biti, according to Zimbabwe’s NewsDay.
Elections are expensive
– especially if you want them to be free and fair (or at least
appear to be free and fair). There’s lots of equipment that
must be bought, lots of staff recruited, lots of organising needed.
Biti says that Zimbabwe needs $132 million (R1.2 billion) to pull
it off properly, but just doesn’t have it.
This is not an unreasonably
high figure. Britain’s elections in 2005 cost $122 million,
and its 2011 referendum on voting systems was roughly the same.
But even austerity budget-Britain has this in reserve, unlike Zimbabwe.
So where is the money going to come from?
The obvious candidate
is the United Nations, which has rarely been shy of funding democratic
processes. Only one problem here: the UN wants to make sure those
processes really are democratic. “It was clear that the [UN]
team wanted a broader mandate... They kept talking about the security
sector and media reforms, all sorts of euphemisms... and that we
reject,” said justice minister Patrick Chinamasa this week,
implying that the UN was attempting to “manipulate, infiltrate
and interfere with” Zimbabwe’s internal processes. This
ruled out the United Nations option.
Fortunately, a more amenable
donor was found in South Africa – or was it? Earlier this
week, Biti told journalists that South African had agreed to stump
up $100 million (around R900 million) as a loan towards Zimbabwe’s
election. This was the first time, however, the South African public
had heard about it – and the South African government didn’t
know anything about it either.
Lindiwe Zulu, international
relations advisor to President Jacob Zuma and leader of South Africa’s
mediation efforts in Zimbabwe, told the Daily Maverick that although
there is an existing agreement for South Africa to lend Zimbabwe
that amount of money, it is most certainly not for the purpose of
holding elections. According to Zulu, this line of credit was agreed
by Cabinet in 2009, and officials from both countries’ treasuries
are still sitting down to figure out the modalities of the loan.
She said that if Zimbabwe wanted help funding its elections, it
would have to ask. “We have no such request on the table,”
Which is perhaps fortunate,
because civil society has been near universal in warning strongly
against making any loans without exacting conditions being attached
to them. “South Africa should not lend any money to a government
that is largely run by a cabal of crooks,” said Good Governance
Africa (GGA) in a statement in response to Daily Maverick questions.
The Johannesburg-based research institution sent a team to Zimbabwe
to monitor the referendum. “The chances for Zimbabwe of conducting
free and fair elections with this money are very slim. It has not
harnessed its security forces which continue to harass civic groups.
Zanu-PF continues to dominate the electoral commission, making it
impossible for it to hold free and fair elections.”
So where does this leave
Zimbabwe? In trouble, with Zanu-PF officials already backtracking
from the proposed June date, saying that September or October is
looking more likely. But, if Zimbabwe is really intent on conducting
an election free from international conditions around reform and
fairness then there is a solution closer to home.
have alternative sources for funding these elections,” said
Good Governance Africa. “It continues to stifle growth and
investment in its economy through its indigenisation programme.
It also has considerable revenues from its eastern diamond fields,
which are run by Zanu-PF, and do not reach state coffers.”
So, Zimbabwe, if you
want elections, you might have to ask your politicians to dig into
their own suspiciously deep pockets. This, however, seems unlikely
to produce free and fair elections – which are looking as
unlikely as ever before.
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