EU withdraws Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s funding after flawed August general election

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By Mary Taruvinga

The European Union (EU) has revealed that it will be formally suspending its US$5 million financial aid for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) citing lack of transparency and irregularities in the just ended elections.

In a statement, the EU said a number of Electoral Observer Missions (EOM) flagged the flawed management of the polls by ZEC and as such had decided to plug the funding.

“The European Union (EU) has formally communicated its intention to suspend its US$ 5 million financial support for the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) to both the Ministry of Finance and Investment Promotion and ZEC.

“The project supporting ZEC, which is managed by UNDP and scheduled to run until December 2024, is currently under scrutiny due to concerns raised by several international Electoral Observation Missions (EOMs) regarding the Independence and transparency of ZEC during the 2023 harmonised elections.

“The recent preliminary statements from multiple ECMs, including the EU EDM, have raised concerns about ZECs management of the electoral process, particularly regarding its independence and transparency,” reads the statement.

This follows demands for a rerun by the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) which has described the polls as a gigantic fraud.

Zanu PF’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa won the election with 52.6 percent ahead of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa who got 44 percent.

Mnangagwa, cabinet ministers, MPs and councillors were sworn in despite the uproar.

The election according to observers including SADC, Carter Centre, EU among others was full of irregularities and fell short of regional and international standards.

Cases of voter suppression were recorded in urban areas where voting material was delivered late and voting commenced as late as 2100 hours in some polling stations.

Opposition political parties were also denied an opportunity to access and inspect the voters’ roll and the ballot.

The European Union Elections Observer Mission (EU EOM), the Commonwealth observer group and the Carter Center agreed that the pre-electoral environment was peaceful despite the irregularities.

They raised concerns over the arrest of 39 Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) and Election Resources Centre (ERC) Africa observers and the intimidation of voters by the Zanu PF affiliate, the Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ).

“The EU contributes together with other donors to a UNDP-managed project aiming at enhancing EC’s institutional and technical capabilities to fulfil its constitutional mandate. In response to these concerns and in adherence to responsible management of EU development cooperation funds, the EU has initiated a procedure to suspend its contribution to this project.”

The EU said it underscores the critical importance of electoral management bodies serving as independent and transparent institutions in fulfilling their mandates to deliver credible and inclusive electoral processes that enjoy the trust of citizens.

In this regard, the EU said it will continue closely monitoring developments in Zimbabwe and is committed to collaborating with the government, independent commissions, civil society, and other stakeholders in promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Under the project known as the ZM ECP, the primary goal was to enhance ZEC’s capacity to conduct the electoral process.

This project is managed by UNDP and receives support from various donors, including the EU.

Following the signing of the Financing Agreement with the Ministry of Finance in November 2022, the EU officially entered into the ZM-ECO2 project with UNDP in December 2022, providing a total contribution of US$4.7 million USD, of which approximately  US$1 million Euros have been spent.