Zimbabwe has Sh19,000 in bank, says minister

Zimbabwe has just $217 (Sh18,880) left in its government account after paying civil servants, Finance minister Tendai Biti has revealed.

Mr Biti told journalists in Harare Wednesday that President Robert Mugabe had since ordered him to approach donors to bankroll the forthcoming elections and a referendum on the new constitution.

“Government finances are in a paralytic state — last week there was only $217 left in government coffers when we paid civil servants,” he said.

“President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have written to my ministry and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs to ask us to raise money for elections.”

The southern African country needs about $85 million to hold the referendum sometime in March. Another $107 million would be needed to organise elections expected around June.

“We will ensure the money we budgeted for elections in 2013 will go towards this,” Mr Biti said.

“We have appealed to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to ensure their budgets are also realistic.”

President Mugabe’s Zanu PF party has in the past objected to United Nations funding for the country’s constitution making process saying his Western foes will try to influence the exercise.

Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa said they would insist that the donations are channelled through Treasury.

“We have to have mechanisms that protect and sanitise our process from donor influence,” he said.

“It is a principle that no co-operating partner, through charity, should influence our process. Essentially, as Zanu PF, we have no objection if that money comes through Treasury.

“We will object any assistance that is poured directly to institutions that directly run the electoral process.”

Zimbabwe’s economy is still recovering from a decade of decline due to political infighting.