National elections are financed by the treasury and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is on record as having set its budget at US$220 million to hold both a referendum and general elections.
Analysts say in terms of the constitution and the law money to fund elections must be from the Consolidated Revenue Fund — the main bank account of government — even if it comes from sources other than taxation.
Finance minister Tendai Biti has repeatedly said treasury has no money to fund elections.
Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional expert, said it would not be legally possible for polls to be run by funds other than those availed the treasury.
“It is not legally acceptable for anyone to bring in money from any other source outside the treasury to finance the elections,” Madhuku said.
“When Finance minister Tendai Biti says there is no money for elections, he is speaking on behalf of the government and President Mugabe cannot bring in his own money for a government programme because the minister has to be accountable,” he said.
While addressing journalists in Harare recently, Biti said his ministry had only been able to budget for the population census and a referendum.
However, some analysts believe Zimbabwe might end up running a potentially illegally-funded election with funds sourced from the proceeds of the sale of diamonds sold through parallel channels.
“If Biti says there is no money then that is reality because he is the minister in charge of treasury which funds national programmes,” said Alexander Rusero, a local political commentator. “The possibility of the funds being sourced from somewhere else like the Ministry of Mines is very high but it will be illegal to run the polls using such funds. It will be unacceptable because we have a lot of priorities in other areas.”
Another commentator Alex Magaisa, also a lawyer, said the issue of funding elections was secondary to a conducive environment to hold credible polls.
“Elections cost money and unless there are sufficient resources to fund the election it will be impossible to hold a credible election.
“In 2008, the delays over the election results were explained on the basis of resource limitations, which was a flimsy excuse, so what would be the point of going to an election without the necessary resources? It would only produce another sham result,” he said.
“In any event the issue of funding is secondary to ensuring that conditions are properly created to have a credible election,” said Magaisa.