Harare – Japan has reportedly donated at least $1m to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to conduct free and fair elections in 2018, says a report. According to New Zimbabwe.com, Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Toshiyuki Twado, said the grants should be used for voter education campaigns and the strengthening of information technology capacity for the commission. Twado added that the funds should also assist in mitigating election related violence ahead of the crunch 2018 polls. “The grants should also support the voter registration process, both of which have the objective to promote citizen participation in the electoral process. The election provides all Zimbabwe with the opportunity to exercise their sovereign right to choose their representative for the years to come. As such the electoral process has to be free, fair, transparent and inclusive,” Twado was quoted as saying. According to NewsDay, on the side lines of the donation signing ceremony on Tuesday, Zec deputy chairperson Emmanuel Magade dismissed suggestions by the ruling Zanu PF party that next year’s polls could be held earlier than expected.He said that this was merely a speculation as they wanted to thoroughly prepare for the elections without any glitches, adding that the polls can only be held between June and August and not earlier.“Elections will be held sometime between June and August, so once the registration process is completed by the end of year or early next year, then we will be ready. They are speculating and I don’t want to join that speculation,” Magade was quoted as saying. This come as reports have indicated that the cash strapped government was in need of at least $274m to finance next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Rita Makarau, the Zec chairperson, told a parliamentary committee in July that she was confident the national treasury would make the money available.But, the government was reportedly struggling to even pay its workforces due to cash shortages that begun over a year ago.