THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has failed to pay election officers it deployed in the running of recent by-elections in Mt Darwin West and Chirumanzi-Zibagwe constituencies amid reports the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) availed US$18 million towards the holding of the by-elections.
Sources at the Registrar-General (RG)’s office that formed the bulk of the election officers during the polls said they had not been paid for the eight days they were deployed by Zec.
Established by an Act of the Parliament in 2004, Zec is a nominally independent organisation mandated with conducting elections at all levels of Zimbabwe politics.
“We were deployed for eight days at a rate of US$40 per day but until now no payment has been made with Zec saying it did not get enough funding from Treasury,” a source said.
Investigations revealed that about 200 employees from the RG’s office were deployed to run the two by-elections by Zec. The Zimbabwe Independent also learnt Zec requires close to US$2 million to conduct a single by-election.
There are currently 18 by-elections pending: 14 to replace the expelled MDC Renewal legislators, two to replace Didymus Mutasa and Temba Mliswa expelled from Zanu PF, one in Wedza North to fill the vacancy left by Simon Musanhu, a former deputy Environment minister, and another to fill the Mudzi West seat following the death of MP Acquillina Katsande.
The US$2 million per constituency covers electoral costs such as the preparation of voting material, voter registration, voter education, logistics and payment of allowances for polling officers, among other expenses.
Currently Zec has no capacity to meet the costs on its own as in the 2015 national budget Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated it only US$853700, which would be chewed by salaries and administrative fees.
In 2013 government had to extend begging bowels to the international donor communities in order to fund general elections to end the unity government.
Fearing embarrassing failure to secure money to fund the polls, government also quickly put together a three-member team comprising then Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, Finance minister Tendai Biti and Chinamasa to scrounge for the US$220 million from local blue-chip private companies such as Econet Wireless.
This time around the cash-strapped government is expected to pump out at least US$36 million in funding unbudgeted for by-elections occasioned by the bitter infighting within the main political parties.
Zec is not permitted to receive donor funding, making it solely reliant on the overburdened Treasury, most of whose revenue (more than 80%) unsustainably goes towards salaries of the civil service.
Acting Zec chief executive officer Utoile Silaigwana said he would only respond to written enquiries. Questions emailed to him had however not been responded to at the time of going to press.
Nssa general manager James Matiza could not be reached for comment as he was said to be in a meeting.