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  • Made in China: The secret of Mugabe’s election success
    Khadija Shari, 100 Reporters
    October 28, 2013

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    In February, speaking at his birthday, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe described his leadership as a “divine task,” and his certain victory at the then-upcoming presidential poll as God’s choice.

    His prophecy would be fulfilled on July 31, when the 89-year-old Mugabe, Africa’s longest-serving president, would claim victory with 61 percent of the vote, ahead of Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change.

    But documents from Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization obtained by 100Reporters suggest that the success of Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party reflected direct intervention by the Chinese Communist Party, financial support topping $1 billion in diamonds and revenues from three companies and two African presidents, armed intimidation by security forces and vote rigging en masse.

    The good Lord had less to do with it.

    The Landscape

    As the presidential election approached, both candidates signaled their intention to end the power-sharing arrangement of the last five years. Though the MDC itself had not escaped the taint of local corruption, Tsvangirai had campaigned on pledges to clean up the nation’s diamond sector. He openly criticized the secrecy surrounding Zimbabwe’s mining agreements with China and with a handful of companies.

    Revenue related to the diamond trade, if reported properly, could provide decent jobs for 100,000 Zimbabweans, he said, instead of lining the pockets of a military and political elite and financing what the nonprofit group Global Witness had called a “parallel government.”

    For his part, Mugabe likened Tsvangirai to a cowardly dog, saying his rival sought to hand over the country’s wealth to white foreigners.

    One intelligence assessment suggested that a Zanu victory would require massive effort, noting that the party had lost 10 percent of its members since 2008. Votes for Mugabe, the service estimated, would run 670,000, while “hostile votes” could reach one million.

    “The joke is that we don’t know anyone alive who votes for Zanu,” said a Zimbabwean political activist now based in South Africa, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This system is a fiction: the enemy is a fiction, the success is a fiction, the idea of voting is a fiction.”

    The Strategy

    To rig the elections and secure 50 percent of the vote, Zanu sought the assistance of Nikuv International Projects Ltd. an Israeli company specializing in large technology projects (such as passports and registries), paying the company $13 million, the documents said. Operating in countries like Angola, Zambia, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe, the company was selected by Daniel Nhepera, internal director of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), and two retired directors (H. Muchena and S. Nyunango), based on the company’s “excellent record from 2002,” one document states.

    Previous caches of Nikuv’s website, since taken down from the Internet, reveal the company’s past successes in Zimbabwe included population registration, elections (such as presidential, parliamentary, senatorial and local government), identity cards and passports.

    The strategy outlined in Zimbabwean intelligence documents called for the company to “secure votes” by working tightly with Zimbabwe’s feared CIO and armed youth, which used intimidation and forced relocation of voters. The strategy called for delaying and obstructing voter registration in areas likely to favor the opposition.

    Specific steps included:

    • Registering less than ten real voters on “any given day with direct command from Nikuv” and the Party;
    • Populating the voters’ roll before, and during, elections to counter unfavorable voting outcomes;
    • Parallel registration and mobilization for “statistical maneuvering, depopulation and population of hostile constituencies,” in coordination with the Registrar’s Office and an official of the Chinese Communist Party identified in the documents as Chung Huwao;
    • Obstructing registration in the 18-35 age brackets, and over-registering voters in the 35-90 age brackets;
    • Using housing schemes to “re-orient beneficiaries” and log them on the voting roll;
    • Deliberately congesting the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission registration by “security personnel and trusted lieutenants to delay the process as advised by Nikuv.”

    Nikuv’s head office acknowledged interview requests but did not respond to allegations that it had played a role in vote rigging.

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