Zimbabwe is pinching its pennies

The electoral commission has secured services on credit due to lack of funds. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)

The electoral commission has secured services on credit due to lack of funds. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)

Zimbabwe is going for broke. No government department is allowed to spend money on any operational activities, including stationery, until after next week’s elections.

The order comes after the finance ministry suspended all government expenditure except salaries so that all available funds are channelled to next Wednesday’s elections.

Civil servants and parastatal employees have also been ordered to surrender their government-issued vehicles as the central government battles to mobilise resources for the elections.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who has tried unsuccessfully to raise funds from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Southern African Development Community, last week said there was no choice but to halt all other spending activities.

Because of budget constraints, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the body conducting the poll, has failed to purchase vehicles, and only has the few that were donated to the commission by the UNDP.

As a result, the government has now ordered civil servants to hand back their vehicles to enable the ZEC to transport voting material and officials who will preside over the elections.

Vehicles impounded
The Zimbabwe Republic Police has been directed to impound unsurrendered vehicles and escort them to government complexes, or to the Central Mechanical Equipment Department offices at district and provincial levels, to ensure there will not be a shortage of vehicles for the electoral process.

According to a circular from the chair of the Public Service Commission, Dr Mariyawanda Nzuwa, that has been put up on notice boards at government offices countrywide, the vehicles were to be surrendered by midday on Tuesday.

The circular reads: “Government requires vehicles to transport election personnel and materials for the July 31 harmonised elections to all parts of Zimbabwe. Accordingly, the Public Service Commission is directing heads of ministries to surrender all government vehicles, ie: one tonne to 10 tonne trucks, single cabs, twin/double cabs and utility vehicles to the Public Service Commission by 12pm on July 23 2013.”

The circular says surrendered vehicles should be accompanied by a ministry or parastatal driver.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police has been requested to stop and impound unsurrendered vehicles with effect from Wednesday, July 24 2013, and to immediately escort the vehicles to the nearest Central Mechanical Equipment Department office or Public Service Commission office.”

Nzuwa said heads of ministries should seek clearance from the Public Service Commission if they want to retain any vehicles for essential services.

Enough ballot boxes
ZEC deputy chair Joyce Kazembe said the body has enough ballot boxes and polling booths for the elections. Ballot papers for four provinces were delivered on Tuesday, and the commission has finished printing ballot papers for six of the country’s 10 provinces.

Kazembe said ballot papers will have been delivered to all provinces by Thursday and the ink needed for the voting exercise has been secured.

By Tuesday the ZEC had only received $58-million of a budget of $133-million for the polls.

The ZEC commissioner responsible for finance, Bessie Fadzai Nhandara, said the ZEC has managed to put in place most of the material it needs to conduct the polls, after securing services on credit.

“Out of the budget we wanted, we have only received $58-million, but nothing has stopped us from getting what we want. We are just passing the bills to treasury, and right now we are on course,” she said.

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