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Zanu PF scared of UN poll scrutiny

THE Zanu PF element of the inclusive government has unilaterally withdrawn Zimbabwe’s application for electoral funding from the United Nations (UN) as part of a well-calculated move to avoid scrutiny in the run-up to, during and after the next crucial general elections, it has emerged.

Report by Elias Mambo

Fearing the UN mission, which is demanding meetings with political parties and civil society organisations before releasing money to fund elections, would shift the spotlight to dark corners of the country, President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF ministers last week blocked the team from Turtle Bay, the UN’s headquarters in a New York neighbourhood on Manhattan.

Sources said Mugabe and his Zanu PF officials feared the UN team led by Tadjoudine Ali-Diabacte –– a former member of the Togolese Election Commission who has served as an election observer for the National Democratic Institute –– would use the opportunity to visit Zimbabwe to gather information about the political and security situation in the country instead of only focussing on electoral issues.

The UN team wanted to meet political parties and civic groups. It also intended to visit the three Mashonaland provinces, Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands, including areas where violence erupted during the disputed 2008 presidential election run-off.

Zanu PF was scared of this and then blocked the mission, sources said.

“The reason why Mugabe and his closest courtiers don’t want the UN team is that they want to avoid close scrutiny before, during and after elections,” a senior government official said.

“If they allow the UN team in they fear it would gather detailed information on the political and security situation, and then use it to refocus international attention and debate on Zimbabwe ahead of elections.”

As hinted at by Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa this week, Mugabe and his loyalists are afraid of the sort of exposure and condemnation they suffered after the visit to the country in 2005 by UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka following Murambatsvina devastations.

Tibaijuka’s damning report said the shacks demolition campaign which targeted  victims with mass forced evictions affected 900 000 men, women and children even though to date the recommendations made by the UN Secretary General’s special envoy on human settlement issues are still not yet fully implemented.

Zimbabwe, which has been slapped with sanctions by Western countries over policy differences and human rights violations, also survived being put on the UN Security Council agenda in 2008 after a blood-soaked presidential election run-off in June that.

Around the same time the country also survived UN scrutiny over a cholera outbreak which killed 4 0000 and affected 100 000 after former United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) chief in Harare, Agostinho Zacarias, who had close links with Zanu PF, failed to take preventive measures.

Sources said these experiences influenced Mugabe and his ministers to block the UN team even if the UNDP partly funded the constitution-making exercise and has always mobilised humanitarian support for Zimbabwe.

“The Zanu PF section of government has a cocktail of measures to prevent outside scrutiny. They don’t want the UN, they also don’t want Western election observers, they are determined to limit the presence of Western journalists and restrict the involvement of Sadc during Zimbabwe’s elections,” another official said.

“That is why the UN, Sadc troika representatives, (South African President Jacob) Zuma’s facilitation team, foreign journalists and Western observers are being restricted. It is an irony because this is happening at a time when the West is now willing to engage Mugabe and accept his victory if he wins freely and fairly.”

Recently a group of Western countries, Friends of Zimbabwe, including the European Union (EU), United States and Asia-Pacific states, among others, met with Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC representatives, as well as Sadc envoys, in London to assess the situation in the country and map the way forward.

The EU even lifted sanctions on ministers and Zanu PF-associated entities, except on Mugabe, his family and security services chiefs and state mining companies.

The US this week sent an envoy Andrew Young to Harare in a bid to mend diplomatic relations.

This followed the blocking of the UN team. Government had on February 4 made an official request to the UN for US$250 million the constitutional referendum and general elections through a letter jointly written by Finance minister Tendai Biti and Chinamasa to UNDP country representative Alain Noudehou.

In response on February 11, the UN said a Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) would have to visit the country before funding could be released. Chinamasa and Biti wrote another letter on April 4, indicating Zimbabwe’s readiness to welcome the NAM.

However, when Zanu PF realised the UN team wanted to meet a variety of players, among them, political parties and civic groups such as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, ZimRights, National Association of Non-Governmental Organistaions, and Women of Zimbabwe Arise – groups at forefront of resisting repression and human rights abuses – it changed its mind and started making excuses.

“It was clear the UN team would glean too much information and also effectively monitor the elections by virtue of their funding. Zanu PF wants as little scrutiny as possible, hence the U-turn on funding,” a source said.

Noudehou confirmed different expectations that led to the deadlock. “In the course of deploying the mission to Zimbabwe, it became clear that there were different expectations on the modalities of the NAM,” he said. “Further efforts were made by the UN to engage with the government and explain the purpose and scope of the NAM. As of now, no agreement has been reached on the modalities.”

Last month Zanu PF collapsed Jomic meetings after insisting Zuma’s facilitation team and Sadc troika representatives should not be involved in full Jomic meetings. Sources said this was also because Zanu PF feared scrutiny.

To limit further scrutiny, Zanu PF is also resisting an extraordinary Sac summit before election and making it difficult for Zec to accredit foreign observers by and journalists to monitor and cover the election respectively.

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