By Tichaona Sibanda
21 December 2012
Finance Minister Tendai Biti on Friday said the biggest challenge facing Zimbabwe in 2013 will be finding the resources to stage a referendum and harmonized elections.
Biti explained that funding the two electoral processes in one year was simply not possible and that he hoped the international community will play an active role supporting the costs, estimated at between $150 million and $250 million.
In his last state of the economy briefing for 2012 in Harare, the Finance Minister said he had implored President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to ‘sit’ on Mines Minister Obert Mpofu ‘so that diamonds deliver.’
Diamond revenues have been an ongoing source of conflict within the inclusive government. A report last month said at least $2 billion of diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange fields – one of the world’s largest deposits – had gone missing.
‘I’ve written to our two principals and impressed upon them that our resources will not be sufficient. So two things must happen….number one, they must sit on Obert Mpofu so that diamonds deliver, because diamond mining is taking place and diamond exports are taking place.
‘Number two, it’s quiet clear the international community has to come to our assistance as Zimbabwe will not have sufficient resources of its own to fund both the referendum and election. If it was going to be an election alone, taigona kukiya kiya (we could find the money)’ Biti said.
Biti, who is the secretary general of the MDC-T, recently said he was hoping a referendum on the constitution could be held in the first quarter of 2013, paving the way for an election between June and August.
He has persistently argued that it’s impossible to have an election in March, as demanded by Mugabe, saying the newly drafted constitution, as well as electoral and media reforms, would need to be introduced first to ensure the result of the poll was ‘credible, legitimate and sustainable.’