HARARE, ZIMBABWE— Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped government Thursday said it had set aside funding for the constitutional referendum and 2013 elections. Presenting the 2013 national budget, Zimbabwe’s finance minister said the elections must be peaceful so the country's economic recovery remains on course.
Until Thursday, Zimbabweans were not sure if their poor country could afford to hold elections to end the country’s almost four-year-old coalition government.
Speaking to parliament, Finance Minister Tendai Biti unveiled a 2013 budget of $3.8 billion, including money for the referendum and polls. He emphasized it is essential that the polls be peaceful.
“Those of us who have covered the length and breath of this country are well aware of the fatigue, despair and despondence that has afflicted the majority our people of this country, many of whom fear next year and the election," said Biti. "Mr. Speaker, 2013 can and should be the year in which we liquidate our cyclical politics and convert the same into virtuous politics of inclusion. I personally have hope, great hope.”
Election, economy connected
Biti said he is hopeful Zimbabwe's economy will record five percent growth next year, up from this year’s four percent. He said that growth hinged on a peaceful election and friendly polices.
Zimbabwe's economy shrank for nearly a decade after 2000, when President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party began seizing white-owned farms, triggering a sharp fall in agricultural production.
Zimbabwe has enjoyed small but steady growth since 2009, when the ZANU-PF party and the longtime opposition Movement for Democratic Change formed a coalition government following disputed elections.
Those polls were marred by a campaign of intimidation against MDC supporters, including beatings, killings and torture.
The MDC has said the 2013 polls must be preceded by passage of a new constitution to ensure the elections are free and fair.
Biti, who is an MDC member, said several factors are still affecting the economy, including high wages for civil servants, non-remittance of diamond revenues to the treasury, high debt and policies that discourage foreign investment.