Zimbabwe seeks UN help to raise $250m for polls By KITSEPILE NYATHI in Harare | Saturday, February 9  2013 at  11:32

President Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Zimbabwe has approached the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) seeking $250 million to fund its forthcoming constitutional referendum and general election.

The Southern African country, which made international headlines, last week after its Finance minister told journalists that government had $217 left in its bank account, said it had only set aside $25 million for the polls.

According to a letter jointly signed by Finance minister Tendai Biti and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, President Robert Mugabe sanctioned the fund raising.

“On behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe, we formally request the UNDP for assistance in mobilising resources to cover for the funding gap for both the constitutional referendum and the general election,” reads part of the letter dated February 4.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had budgeted close to $220 million for the referendum and elections.

But the Ministry of Finance has only been able to release $2 million so far for voter registration and education.

The referendum is likely to be held next month after Parliament endorsed the draft constitution this week. President Mugabe is pushing for the elections to be held by June.

UNDP mobilised close to $21 million towards the constitution making process that took almost four years because of bickering in the coalition government.

Zimbabwe’s economic recovery has been slower than expected following the formation of a unity government between President Mugabe and his former opponents in 2009.

The country recently discovered vast diamond deposits but the government has struggled to attract investors to what could be the world’s richest diamond mines.

Last year, the Kimberley Process lifted a ban on Zimbabwe diamond exports followings charges of smuggling and human rights violations.

Exports of diamonds was expected to contribute $1 billion to the economy annual but Mr Biti has complained that mining companies with links to President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF were remitting revenue to Treasury.