Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Zimbabwe back to the polls next year

Sep 19, 2010 12:00 AM | By ZOLI MANGENA

Zimbabwe's cabinet this week unanimously agreed that fresh elections would be held next year amid opposition from a wide cross-section of Zimbabweans.

This came as South African President Jacob Zuma met Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to discuss the issue of elections.

Insiders said Zuma and Tsvangirai discussed how to ensure free and fair elections to avoid a disputed outcome.

Zuma, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediator in Zimbabwe, and his colleagues in the region view elections as the only way out for Zimbabwe, which has been locked in a political stalemate for a decade.

Informed government insiders said the cabinet on Tuesday resolved that elections would be held next year after finance minister Tendai Biti presented his budget principles and guidelines to the cabinet.

"The issue of elections arose in the context of Biti making a presentation on the budget. He raised the issue and informed cabinet that the political principals had directed him to budget $200-million for elections, and cabinet had approved it," said a minister.

"So, as a result, it is now formal policy that elections will be coming next year. We will start with the referendum on the draft constitution, which will cost$100-million and then follow with national elections, which will also need $100-million."

The Sunday Times could not get comment from the government because Mugabe's cabinet has resolved to arrest ministers who leak confidential information.

Said a minister: "Cabinet approved the elections, but some of us don't want them. It's not necessary at the moment to subject the country and the people to a process which we all know will bring back political tensions and confrontation.


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