HARARE – The Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC yesterday said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) must independently acquire bio-metric voter registration kits (BVR).
This comes as the stone-broke President Robert Mugabe government announced this week that it raised $17 million to acquire the kits, expected to minimise errors and prevent accusations of foul play in the key 2018 poll.
“The MDC is deeply concerned about the improper involvement of the Zanu PF regime in the acquisition of the BVR kits,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said yesterday.
Out of a total $59, 2 million required to fund the preparations — polling station catchment area mapping and acquiring the BVR — for the 2018 elections, government had pledged $17 million while other development partners, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), would foot the balance.
Gutu said as an independent commission, Zec must be getting its own budgetary allocation from the national budget for the purpose of running its operations.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa appropriated $9,7 million to Zec under the 2017 national budget, which critics sledged as far short of the $59,2 million requested by Zec.
“Put simply, Zec is not a department within any government ministry and as such, not even the ministry of Justice has the constitutional right to dictate what amount of money should be allocated to Zec.
“It is a public secret that the Zanu PF regime is bankrupt and indeed, this is one of the main reasons why the UNDP had been approached to assist in the acquisition of the BVR kits.
“It, therefore, boggles the mind how a bankrupt government would, all of a sudden, have managed to find the millions of United States dollars that are required to purchase the kits,” Gutu said, adding that “something very fishy and dodgy is certainly taking place here,” he said.
Gutu said the MDC was convinced that the Zanu PF regime was in “panic mode” and that the opposition party was not prepared to allow a situation whereby Zec will independently and transparently acquire the BVR kits.
“The ghost of Nikuv is still haunting the nation of Zimbabwe.”
The MDC has previously claimed that the Registrar General’s Office paid controversial Israeli-based company, Nikuv Projects International (NPI), over $10 million to assist Zanu PF rig the July 31, 2013 polls, an allegation strenuously denied by the shadowy firm, the ruling party and Zec.
The new bio-metric polling station-based voter registration process was supposed to be jointly financed by the government of Zimbabwe and the UNDP.
Zec hopes to roll out the new technology in March.
Independent monitors have routinely reported “ghost” voters, stuffed ballot boxes and other violations in previous votes.
Zimbabwe cannot afford a repeat of the poll mayhem, Zec has said.
On Wednesday, Zec chairperson Rita Makarau told a press briefing: “ . . . the government . . . has come on board and has decided that it will fund the acquisition of the BVR kits instead of letting the UNDP do it on its own”.
“It will fund whatever award is given to the bidder; they will fund that acquisition of BVR kits.”
Makarau could not be drawn to say why government had taken so long to come on board.