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raises concerns over Nikuv voters' roll manipulation
and Wongai Zhangazha, Mail and Guardian (SA)
July 19, 2013
The involvement of Israeli
company Nikuv in the election process is again under scrutiny after
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) wrote to the registrar
general’s office demanding that its contract be terminated.
The MDC said
Nikuv had been involved in tampering
with the voters’ roll.
It has also emerged that
former home affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa, who is now a member
of the opposition, knew the tender was awarded to Nikuv.
The circumstances under
which the Nikuv tender was awarded is now being questioned.
Dabengwa left Zanu-PF
in 2008. He later revived the Zimbabwe African People’s Union
(Zapu), which he now heads. Zapu is now in a coalition for the election
with Welshman Ncube’s MDC.
Asked for clarity on
the Nikuv tender, Dabengwa confirmed that 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”.
“The only time
they [Nikuv] attempted to get involved in electoral processes was
when they recommended in 2000 that they would want to introduce
voting cards for people, which would last for four elections,”
However, the government
had not adopted the proposal. “If ever they were then later
used for other electoral processes by the state, that is not to
The MDC letter was written
by the party’s secretary general, Tendai Biti, to the registrar
general’s office, and hand-delivered last weekend. It was
also copied to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Justice Minister
Patrick Chinamasa and home affairs ministers.
The party said it was
“concerned about electoral fraud [by Nikuv] through manipulation
of the voters’ roll, and the issuing of multiple national
identity cards to individuals that would then allow them to vote
Nikuv, which has previously
been investigated before by the Mail & Guardian over allegations
of its involvement in election rigging in the region, is registered
as Nikuv International Projects, and has been managing Zimbabwe’s
voters’ roll since 1994, when it was controversially awarded
a tender to upgrade the computer systems at the registrar general’s
There have also been
allegations that Nikuv, which is headquartered in Herzliya, Tel
Aviv, is a front for Israeli intelligence.
But Nikuv has denied
the allegations, saying it is being pulled into the “dirty
mud that comes with the holding of elections”.
been involved in politics'
Nikuv’s Ron Asher
this week spoke out for the first time and said that the company
has never been involved in politics.
Asher said: “It
is election time and people are trying to throw mud from this side
and the other side. We are legitimate and professional. We have
never been involved in any politics, not now or ever.”
He said that Nikuv works
with public sectors across the world, but declined to say which
government bodies it works with in Zimbabwe.
“Approach our customers
and look on our website,” he said.
The website says that
the company was established in 1994 by a group of professionals
with an accumulated experience of 45 years in the field of population
registration and electoral systems in Israel.
It says it specialises
in population registration, birth and death registration; marriage/divorce
registration; identity documents; immigration and citizenship; passports;
and electoral systems.
The electoral service
it provides includes voter registration, ward demarcation, the creation
and printing of the voters’ roll by polling stations,
a central information centre and the management of election
A senior Cabinet minister
who asked to remain anonymous told the M&G last month that Nikuv
has been operating in Zimbabwe for more than 10 years and is mainly
based at the National Registration Bureau, located in Borrowdale,
Harare, next to the army headquarters.
The bureau is the national
civic registration centre and falls under the registrar general’s
The source claimed that
Asher works directly with registrar general Tobaiwa Mudede.
However, in a July 15
letter addressed to Biti, which the M&G has seen, Mudede denied
that Nikuv is in a position to manipulate the voters’ roll.
“Nikuv has no control
over our voters’ roll. The mandate to register voters and
compile the voters’ roll rests with the registrar of voters.”
In the letter to the
registrar, the MDC also wanted to know whether Nikuv was hired after
an open tender process.
The MDC demanded that
the registrar general also inform it if Nikuv has indeed been working
on the voters’ roll, the tender numbers and details, and the
extent of its work and what projects the company has completed.
A source within the prime
minister’s office told the M&G that the party is now considering
taking the matter to court before the elections to seek an order
to bar Nikuv from the electoral processes.
Dr Ibbo Mandaza, a political
analyst and head of policy research institute Sapes, said Nikuv’s
operations in Zimbabwe are “difficult to know”.
“I did receive
some information way back in 2000 that there was a Israeli company
involved in electoral processes in the country, [but] it never occurred
to me at that stage that it was Nikuv,” he said.
Mandaza said concerns
about Nikuv’s operations were “understandable.”
Zimbabwe High Court on Wednesday interdicted
nongovernmental organisation Research
and Advocacy Unit (RAU) from launching and publishing its full
of the voters’ roll at a Harare hotel on Wednesday.
Judge Joseph Mafusire
upheld an urgent application by Mudede that claimed that RAU is
attempting to usurp the constitutional powers of the registrar general’s
office and intends to cause “chaos and anarchy within our
In a preliminary
by the M&G two weeks ago, the RAU asserted that a million Zimbabweans
who are dead or have left the country are still on the voters roll;
that the roll lists 116 000 people older than 100; that there are
78 constituencies with more registered voters than adult residents;
and that two million voters under the age of 30 are unregistered.
In a written response,
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Rita Makarau said
that the ZEC had raised certain issues about the RAU’s “assumptions”,
but has not yet received a response.
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