A SECRET taskforce of security and electoral personnel has been put in place to ensure embattled President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF win an absolute majority in tomorrowâ€™s high-stakes elections.
The team, headed by Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives tasked to ensure Mugabe â€œwins power, stays in power, and keeps powerâ€, will heavily influence the already flawed electoral process to secure a predetermined result, well-substantiated information obtained this week shows.
Mugabeâ€™s rivals Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni yesterday charged that Mugabe was going to â€œstealâ€ the polls.
â€œThere is a well-thought-out and premeditated plan to steal the election from us,â€ Makoni said. â€œThe credibility of the electoral process is in doubt.â€
Mugabe must win more than 50% of the valid votes cast to avoid a run-off. Independent surveys have tipped Tsvangirai to win the poll ahead of Mugabe and Makoni. The surveys have all pointed to the possibility of a second round of polling as Tsvangirai is tipped to get just short of 40% of the vote.
The working group, which sources say has â€œelectoral rigging graduatesâ€, will go to any lengths to ensure Mugabe and Zanu PF win tomorrow. The presidential poll results, the sources said, would be manipulated at the National Command Centre (now renamed the National Collation Centre) by security officers.
â€œThere is a team of security and electoral agents in place to ensure Mugabe wins,â€ a well-connected source said. â€œAll sorts of fraudulent measures will be used to achieve this, including reducing of polling stations and ballot papers in opposition strongholds, slowing down the voting process, turning away voters and hence disenfranchisement, having ghost voters and playing around with the numbers of ballots.
â€œThey have also been fiddling with the structure of the already flawed votersâ€™ roll to ensure there are more rural than urban voters,â€ the source said. â€œThis team has virtually taken over the running of elections from the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) and in the process will subvert the peopleâ€™s will.â€
Evidence that the ZEC was not entirely in charge of the electoral process was recently displayed in public after election fliers under the ZEC banner were distributed by unknown people â€” suspected to be security agents â€” wearing the commissionâ€™s jackets, claiming there would be cardboard ballot boxes and permission for police to help the infirm and illiterate at polling stations.
The ZEC was later forced to withdraw the fliers, saying it had no knowledge of who was distributing them. Last week it became clear that the state was implicated because Mugabe changed the law to allow police to be involved in the electoral process, something the January amendment to the Electoral Act had outlawed following inter-party talks.
The ZEC also recently hastily withdrew its voter education officers from the provinces after realising ballot papers were printed in colours different from those it was advertising. The presidential ballots were supposed to be white, House of Assembly blue, senate green and council yellow.
But when the ballot papers came, there were three white ones (presidential, House of Assembly and senate) and yellow for council elections, creating chaos.
Revelations of electoral chicanery underway make the defining elections appear decidedly rigged to retain Mugabe and Zanu PF in power despite deepening unpopularity due to the economic crisis.
However, government has denied allegations of planning to rig elections.
The Independentâ€™s sources said yesterday Mugabeâ€™s team was working hand-in-glove with a group of University of Zimbabwe political science lecturers, including Dr Joseph Kurebwa, who was last year seconded by the CIO to be editor of the now-closed Mirror Group of Newspapers.
Kurebwa could not be reached for comment last night.
Information to hand shows that Mugabeâ€™s security and electoral operatives â€” using the state bureaucracy and resources instead of party structures â€” have a â€œwinning formulaâ€ for him to secure between 52% and 53% of the vote.
Mugabeâ€™s agents expect he will get at least three million votes out of the total valid ballots cast. There are 5,9 million registered voters, according to the ZEC.
Initially, Mugabeâ€™s agents had calculated that unless something was done, he would only get between 49% and 50%. They later suggested a lot of hard work was needed to produce a victory margin of at least 52%.
Mugabeâ€™s taskforce has given the main opposition MDC leader Tsvangirai about 27% of the vote. They expect Tsvangirai to get a tad above 1,5 million votes.
Mugabeâ€™s team expects ex-Finance minister Makoni to get slightly above 20% of the vote or just over a million votes.
Mugabeâ€™s working group predicts Zanu PF will win 137 seats in the House of Assembly, Tsvangiraiâ€™s MDC camp 53, Arthur Mutambaraâ€™s MDC faction 18 and that there would be two independent MPs. The House of Assembly has 210 seats.
In the senate they forecast Zanu PF to win 41 seats, MDC-Tsvangirai 13 and MDC-Mutambara six out of 60 elective seats in the upper house.
The sources said there was collaboration between Mugabeâ€™s taskforce and Kurebwa. Yesterday the senior UZ lecturer in the Department of Politics & Administration â€” with strong CIO links â€” released a survey which had comparable figures to those of Mugabeâ€™s taskforce.Â
Kurebwa said Mugabe would get between 56% and 57% of the vote. This is similar to the 53% figure by Mugabeâ€™s agents. Tsvangirai is set to secure between 26% and 27% of the vote. Mugabeâ€™s taskforce predicts that he will get 27%. Makoni is expected to get between 13% and 14% of the vote, according to Kurebwa, whereas Mugabeâ€™s team says he will get 20%.Â
The extent of the collaboration becomes clear when one looks at the House of Assembly and senate figures. Kurebwaâ€™s figures are exactly the same as those produced by Mugabeâ€™s taskforce, establishing a clear connection between the two. It is said that the data used by Mugabeâ€™s working team was similar to that used by Kurebwaâ€™s group.
In 2005 Kurebwa predicted that Zanu PF would win 72 seats in the general election.Â The party won 78 seats. He also forecast that the MDC would win 45 seats; it won 41 seats.
Sources said Kurebwaâ€™s surveys â€” including the one released yesterday â€” are designed to justify manipulation and rigging of elections by the state.
By Dumisani Muleya