Election rigging scandal deepens

ELECTION rigging allegations involving Nikuv International Projects (NIP), a shadowy Israeli security company which deals with voters’ rolls and handling of election results, deepened this week amid revelations the former Mossad spooks used several methods, including producing different copies of the voters’ rolls and setting up sneaky polling stations, to fix elections in favour of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.

Elias Mambo

The row over Zanu PF’s Made-in-Israel landslide has delayed Mugabe’s inauguration – which he intends to be a major event – as MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai intends to challenge to the disputed election results.

This comes amid revelations Nikuv – which handles voters’ rolls and election results, as well as offer intelligence services such as debugging and counter-surveillance – hastily shut down its Avondale offices in Harare three days after elections and relocated to an unknown Ballantyne Park address in the capital in what sources said was part of on an ongoing cover up mission as the rigging uproar intensifies.

The cover up also seems to involve Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba’s claims last week that the two suspected Nikuv officials, CEO Emmanuel Antebi and his deputy Ammon Peer who visited Mugabe at State House a day before the elections, were Group Five o (G5) executives whose company is currently rehabilitating the country’s highway road network.

While Charamba claims the two dark-haired Jewish-looking men who visited Mugabe and left a black bag were G5 officials, the company’s business development manager Greg Heale, who is based in Johannesburg, denied any of their executives met Mugabe last week.

“Our delegation which visited Zimbabwe came in early July to open two toil gates along the Plumtree/Bulawayo/Harare road but they were not scheduled to meet and did not meet with the president of Zimbabwe,” Heale said.

Another G5 official in Harare also dismissed Charamba’s claims, saying the two men who met Mugabe had nothing to do with the company, thickening the plot currently underway as senior government officials battle to cover up Nikuv’s tracks in the rigging scandal.

Nikuv’s sudden closure of its offices in Avondale also suggested the company’s executives were running scared as the rigging racket escalates.

High-level sources this week said Nikuv, which local representatives include Ron Asher and Eli Antebi, who is the young brother of Emmanuel, operates from different places across Harare.

After hastily closing down the Avondale offices, it is suspected to have shifted its offices to Ballantyne Park in Harare.

The company also operates from the second floor of Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede’s Makombe Building offices where voters’ registration and the voters’ roll are managed.

Investigations also showed Nikuv also runs a greenhouse warehouse, trading as Pedistock, at Corner Alpes Road and Harare Drive in Borrowdale West where the agents meet for important meetings.

Sources said Nikuv officials also worked out of army headquarters at KGVI where there is a “Situation Room” in which they converge with Joint Operation Command (JOC) chiefs to map out election scenarios and the way forward.

“Nikuv operates from different offices across Harare, including Mudede’s offices and KGVI, where issues to do with voter registration, voters’ roll and election scenarios are discussed,” a source said. “Last week’s results would have been worked out in the ‘Situation Room’ at KGVI or some such command centre.”

Mudede, who sometimes sits in JOC, which brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs, is thought to have been instrumental in the hiring of Nikuv when Dumiso Dabengwa was still Home Affairs minister in 2000.

Dabengwa has confirmed Nikuv was hired in 2000 when he was a minister “to specifically upgrade the computers for the purposes of computerising the central registry, birth certificates, passports and national identity documents”.

Sources said Asher and his colleagues were in charge of the voters’ roll which is riddled with duplicating of names, names of people outside the country, names of dead people and other irregularities which could have been manipulated to engineer results.

“Nikuv ran the show since they handled the voters’ roll and election results,” another source said. “That is why the company’s bosses were in Harare last week. They came and flew back to Tel Aviv last week after doing the job and perhaps with a lucrative new contract in their pocket – signed, sealed and delivered.”

It is said Nikuv’s latest contract was worth US$13 million. Apart from Zimbabwe, the company has made a fortune through its activities in Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho and Zambia where it was taken to court in 1996 on allegations of election rigging.

Nikuv offices were recently raided by the Lesotho Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses over a dodgy US$30 million passports contract amid allegations of bribery in which Peer was reportedly caught in the crackdown. In Botswana Nikuv got a controversial US$9,42 million contract with the country’s Home Affairs and registry offices.

It was also a bidder in Ghana’s US$60 million national identification card project in 2004 which got entangled in a web of corruption in neighbouring Nigeria where for strongman, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, had to sack some ministers.

Investigations also showed the indelible ink for elections supplied by Printlink (Pvt) Ltd, owned by Harare businessman Dave Gordon, could have been diluted and could be easily washed off resulting in people voting more than once in various constituencies.

Nikuv reportedly also issued fake voter registration slips which were used by Zanu PF supporters to vote at multiple polling stations. This was prevalent in Harare where police arrested individuals in Hatfield found in possession of multiple copies of voter registration slips, as well as in Mount Pleasant where busloads of baldheaded youths masquerading as police recruits were unearthed.

Nikuv’s rigging allegations were worsened by reports by a private South African-based intelligence, Nasini Projects say the Israeli firm supplied a special watermarked ballot used to give Mugabe a resounding victory.

“From our findings so far we are 99,9% convinced the election was rigged via a ballot paper. A special watermarked ballot paper was used to give President Mugabe a resounding victory,” Nasini CEO Lucia Mordi said.

“The ballot had a water X against Mugabe’s name such that if any ink is placed on the paper the substance on the paper will react and remove the ink and activate the watermarked X into print.”

However, sources say this was unlikely because voters’ registration and voters’ roll manipulation were Nikuv’s most reliable rigging mechanisms in Zimbabwe.

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