THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) received ZW$860 billion (US$188 266 199) to conduct the 23 August general elections, a figure which is likely to balloon in the forthcoming parliamentary and local authority by-elections, The NewsHawks have learnt.
The country is going back to the polls on 9 December following controversial recalls by main opposition self-proclaimed secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu.
The recalls, which have been endorsed by Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, have been largely viewed as a ploy by the ruling Zanu PF to force through a two-thirds majority that would allow it to amend the constitution to bolster President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s stay in power.
According to Zec’s report on the 2023 harmonised elections, the ZW$860 billion budget supported the acquisition of election materials and equipment, vehicles and equipment hire, training welfare of elections officials and related costs.
“Unaudited expenditure as at 18 September 2023 is ZW$612 billion (71%). Treasury availed the budget in time, save for delays experienced in some circumstances which was however urgently attended to. “The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development is commended for timely realising of the budget,” reads the report.
The commission also received support from the European Union’s ZIM-ECO 2 project which mostly covered publicity programmes and media monitoring. In September, the EU pulled its US$5 million funding to the ZIM-ECO 2 project after the sham elections, further casting funding of the polls into doubt. The EU had been funding the ZIM-ECO 2 project to enhance Zec’s capacity to conduct the electoral process, with the aim of contributing to the improvement of the entire electoral cycle, not limited to elections alone.
“The project supporting Zec, which is managed by UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] and scheduled to run until December 2024, is currently under scrutiny due to concerns raised by several international Electoral Observation Missions (EOMs) regarding the independence and transparency of Zec during the 2023 harmonised elections,” the EU said in a statement.
“The recent preliminary statements from multiple EOMs, including the EU EOM, have raised concerns about Zec’s management of the electoral process, particularly regarding its independence and transparency.
“The EU contributes together with other donors to a UNDP-managed project aiming at enhancing Zec’s institutional and technical capabilities to fulfil its constitutional mandate. In response to these concerns and in adherence to responsible management of EU development cooperation funds, the EU has initiated a procedure to suspend its contribution to this project.”
While Zec was embroiled in a ballot paper scandal, the commission said it procured goods and services in terms of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act and subjected processes to due diligence to ensure value for money.
This is ironic, considering that Zec has been under fire for failing to provide enough ballot paper during the general election, which saw some voters casting their ballots deep into the night, sparking outrage from the opposition and key election observers. Zec has however shifted blame on court challenges against it for the challenges in the production and distribution of ballot paper.
“During the election activities, auditors were deployed in all the provinces including districts. The Ballot paper and voters’ rolls for the 2023 harmonised elections were printed by the Printing and Minting Company of Zimbabwe (PCMZ) formerly Fidelity Printers. The commission faced challenges in the production and distribution of ballot papers,” Zec said.
“These challenges emanated largely from what has now come to be called lawfare against the commission. The commission faced an unprecedented number of court challenges (more than 100 applications) arising from the outcome of the nomination courts.
“The court challenges derailed its preparations and roadmap as it sought to attend to the court challenges and to meet the proclaimed electoral timeline.
“The production and distribution strategy adopted by the commission prioritised the remote and more distant provinces to ease distribution challenges against limited timeframes. Thus it should be noted that the delays were largely experienced in Harare.”
Zec said the delays in ballot paper distribution were further caused by the need to reprint ballots after it had been observed that there were errors on the ballots that had been sent to the affected polling stations.
“While the commission experienced the afforested challenges, efforts were made to ensure that no voters were disenfranchised. Therefore a statistical analysis average voter turnout by polling station showed no statistically significant difference between affected and unaffected polling stations,” reads the report.
“The commission requested the President to consider exercising his powers under Statutory Instrument 85 of 2023 that voting could be extended to the 24th of August 2023 in those areas that have been affected by the delays under SI 151 of 2023 thereby extending voting to24 August 2023.”