Is China funding Zimbabwe's referendum and elections?
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All of a sudden Zimbabwe's cash-strapped coalition government has funds for polls despite making an appeal for help from the United Nations to foot its US$250m election bill only a fortnight ago.
Ironically, in April 2011, Zanu-pf turned down an offer by the United Nations to fund and supervise elections, accusing the UN of taking the wrong side in the Ivory Coast conflict.
But in a major climb down Zanu-pf's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa had co-written a letter with MDC-T's Finance Minister Tendai Biti to the UNDP asking for funds for the elections whose date still remains a mystery.
Just before putting down their glasses of champagne of celebrating that the UNDP had "approved" Zimbabwe's request for election money, another breaking news came "Zimbabwe fails to secure external funding for referendum" (SWRadioAfrica.com, 22/02/13).
Although, Finance Minister Tendai Biti reportedly wanted the referendum delayed for lack of funds, the Head of State and Government of disunity, Robert Mugabe told visiting bishops Zimbabwe will be able to raise US$200 million using its natural resources.
Curiously, the same natural resources Mugabe was referring to (presumably diamonds, platinum, elephants and rhinos) have not been used transparently to fund education, Zimbabwe's employment creation efforts or health for all, but have arguably been given to China for a song.
As if the GNU was just playing cry wolf over poll funds, the Sunday Mail on 24th February 2013 quoted Patrick Chinamasa as saying the government has raised enough funds for the constitutional referendum scheduled for March 16, without disclosing the source of the money.
Now, the question is Where did Zimbabwe suddenly get the referendum money at such a short notice which did not exist before the failed joint bid by the two ministers for UN funding?
Given that Zimbabwean companies are operating at 50% capacity or lower and cannot easily part with US$200 million required, as seen from the unsuccessful rent seeking for Mugabe's 21st Feb Movement which secured donations from only two local businesses, Bhadhela and Jays wholesalers , so where has Zimbabwe secured funds for the controversial referendum and elections?
Arguably, people are left to speculate on the coincidence of the revived confidence with recent arrival in Harare of the Chinese Minister of Commerce, Chen Deming, who, without delay signed three memoranda of understanding with Zimbabwe including one for an interest free US$9.6 million loan from China to Zimbabwe (ZBC, 22/02/13).
Is China colonising Zimbabwe?
At a time when Zimbabwe Republic Police is criminalising the ownership of wind-up short wave radio sets, the Chinese delegation handed over an outside broadcasting van and the uplink obviously to boost Zanu-pf propaganda while denying citizens the right to hear alternative news broadcasts by seizing donated radios from poor rural people.
As if to reassure her Chinese guest, the Acting President Joyce Mujuru reportedly declared that Western observers are not welcome to monitor Zimbabwe's harmonised elections. This is a bit strange considering the fact that they have not yet secured the necessary funds for elections.
Or, is this Zanu-pf's way of telling the European Union, to stay away from the 2013 elections, despite easing targeted sanctions on 21 Mugabe loyalists supposedly to reward him, in the hope of sharing the economic cake at the expense of human rights given the crackdown on NGOs in Zimbabwe?
That Zimbabwe is fast speeding towards an uncertain future is observable from the arrogance of the leaders who are stubbornly holding onto an arbitrary referendum date that nobody is ready for, while the judiciary appears uncertain on how to handle the NCA petition which seeks to postpone the event feared by many as potentially violent close to polling day.
While the source of poll funds may be puzzling, it may not be as curious as the MDC-T's endorsement of the unrealistic referendum date of 16 March given the poor logistics in the country.
Equally incomprehensible is Morgan Tsvangirai's approval of what some in both MDC formations view as Zanu-pf sympathisers to head the Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ahead of the mother of all controversial elections.
Is China funding Zimbabwe's referendum and elections?
Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London, email@example.com
Clifford Chitupa Mashiri
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Source: Clifford Chitupa Mashiri
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