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Zimbabwe Finances Strained Before Vote, Finance Minister Says

March 9 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe’s finances are extremely tight as the country braces for a referendum on March 16 and a general election later this year, the country’s finance minister said.

“Things are excruciatingly tight,” Tendai Biti told a media briefing in South Africa’s capital Pretoria today.

Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, has requested “electoral assistance” from the United Nations on Feb. 4, Biti said. The Treasury has allocated enough money for the referendum, he said.

Zimbabweans will decide on a new constitution on March 16. A vote in favor will be the first step in ending almost five years of power-sharing between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change. Both parties want the constitution approved by voters.

The Southern African Development Community will start its election observer mission to Zimbabwe tomorrow, Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao said in Pretoria today. He spoke after a separate SADC meeting which discussed the Zimbabwean referendum. President Jacob Zuma, of South Africa, President Jakaya Kikwete, from Tanzania, and Prime Minister Hein Geingob, from Namibia, attended the meeting.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaco Visser in Johannesburg at avisser3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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