The United Nations chief in Zimbabwe has rejected recent allegations the U.N. is seeking to interfere in the 2018 electoral process.
A majority-government-owned newspaper, the Sunday Mail, stirred controversy this month when it published an article accusing the United Nations of plotting to rig upcoming elections to remove President Robert Mugabe from office.
Mugabe, who has been in office since independence in 1980, says he will run for another term next year.
The Sunday Mail story came just days after an opposition protest in which demonstrators said they had lost confidence in the electoral commission and wanted an international body to run the 2018 polls.
On Wednesday, Bishow Parajuli, the U.N. resident coordinator in Zimbabwe, addressed the accusations of political interference.
“It is totally false,” Parajuli said. “In fact, in every issue the U.N. is engaged in, the government is aware. We never deal on political matters like that. We are working on purely development and humanitarian matters.”
He was joined at a news conference by Mugabe’s chief secretary, Misheck Sibanda, who reaffirmed Parajuli’s statement.
“UNDP means what? United Nations Development Program. And their job is to promote development. This is why we are together,” Sibanda said, referring to the U.N.’s past help in dealing with devastating droughts and flooding. “I think [the election] is an issue you [the media] want to blow out of proportion.”
But political tensions have been rising, most recently over the purchase of biometric voter registration equipment. The electoral commission had initially agreed to have the United Nations purchase the necessary equipment, but last week, the commission announced the government would purchase it instead. Opposition parties cried foul.
On Wednesday, the U.N. chief in Zimbabwe said decisions about the purchase of the BVR equipment remain up to the government.