By Andrew Meldrum
A ZIMBABWEAN army officer on Wednesday described how, under orders, he forged thousands of ballots for Robert Mugabe in last year’s hotly disputed presidential election. Lieutenant Herbert
Ndlovu (43), speaking to journalists in Johannesburg,said he worked with five other army personnel to falsify thousands of army postal ballots on behalf of soldiers serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“It was not hundreds, it was thousands of ballots,” said Ndlovu. “I knew it was wrong. I knew this was not how a democracy is supposed to work, but I was given orders.”
It is the first public testimony of ballot stuffing in the presidential election and should bolster the already considerable evidence of voting fraud being presented in court to challenge Mugabe’s controversial re-election.
Ndlovu said he was later accused by the army’s security division of sympathising with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He told of gruesome torture at the hands of army security officers that has left him only able to walk with crutches, 20 months later.
Ndlovu and another army lieutenant who survived similar torture, fled the “tyranny” in Zimbabwe this week to be able to make their allegations against the Mugabe government.
“We do not even feel safe here in South Africa but we want the world to know, especially other Africans, about the terrible things that are going on in our country,” said Ndlovu yesterday. “We both fought to liberate our country from Rhodesian oppression but we never expected to see this new oppression.” He said he was ordered to fill out the ballots by a Captain Chauke at the headquarters of the Fourth Brigade in the southern city of Masvingo in February 2002, a month before the presidential election. “I was ordered to put an X by Mugabe’s name and junior clerks filled in the names and addresses of the servicemen and put the ballots in the envelopes,” said Ndlovu.
He said they filled out the ballot papers from early in the morning until 3pm.
“There were too many to count, but it was thousands,” said Ndlovu. “In a democracy one should vote for himself. Noone should vote for others. But Zimbabwe is not what we fought for. It is no longer a democracy.”
He said Chauke “took the boxes of ballot paper in a military vehicle to Harare”.
Ndlovu’s testimony is expected to be added to the weighty evidence being presented in court by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who is challenging the legitimacy of Mugabe’s re-election on the grounds of massive voting fraud and widespread state violence. The High Court is currently hearing the case.
Ndlovu’s account backs widespread suspicious that the army’s large postal votes in favour of Mugabe were fraudulent.
Far from being rewarded for producing so many votes for Mugabe, Ndlovu was soon accused of socialising with members of the MDC. He was taken to the army’s Cranborne Barracks in Harare where he alleges he was subjected to prolonged beatings and torture by electric shock. He says many other men were tortured there.