The Israeli company’s client, President Robert Mugabe, romped home with 60% of the vote and his Zanu (PF) party grabbed more than two-thirds of the seats in the troubled southern African nation’s parliament. Even better, there was none of the violence or blatant intimidation that marked past elections, like the 2008 vote that his rival Morgan Tsvanigirai won, and led to widespread chaos and international condemnation.
So how did Nikuv, a shadowy company headquartered the Israeli town of Herzliya, play such a central role in the vote in a farflung African land? Why did Nikuv CEO Emmanuel Antebi, and top aide Ammon Peer reportedly jet into the capital of Harare for 90 minutes of valuable face time with Mugabe on Tuesday, just hours before the polls opened?
The opposition and independent watchdogs say it’s because Nikuv was a vital cog in Mugabe’s strategy to rig the election and maintain his grip on power. The strategy apparently succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. In some urban constituencies, Zanu (PF) increased its vote 10 and 20-fold. In rural areas, some districts recorded more votes than the adult population.
So how did Nikuv do it?
The company has been working for several years with the notoriously partisan Registrar General, Tobaiwa Mudede. Zanu (PF) has long used the voter’s roll as a political tool to disenfranchise voters in the opposition’s urban strongholds and inflate its own support in the vast rural hinterlands. While the MDC was distracted by the task of trying to stabilize the country’s economy (and enjoying the newfound perks of office, cynics say), Zanu (PF) was using the tools Nikuv provided to lay the groundwork for this week’s ‘landslide.’
Nikuv gave them plenty of cards to play with. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission printed 35% more ballots than there are registered voters, compared to the global standard of 5%. That number raised hackles even among normally pliant African Union election observers.
Some insiders claim thousands of ballots with neatly pre-filled out Zanu (PF) votes were simply added to the totals in certain wards. Extra polling stations were set up that were only known to ruling party supporters.
As the scale of the debacle emerges, Tsvangirai is crying foul and the MDC is vowing to continue its uphill battle for democracy in a country that has known only one ruler in the 33 years since independence. (It might have considered fighting for common sense reforms like eliminating the voters roll and making voting based on a national ID card while it had a share of power, but hindsight is always 20/20).
But Mugabe will now likely serve as president till he’s 95 — or dies in office. And that’s why Nikuv’s bosses will likely be flying back to Tel Aviv with a lucrative new contract in their pocket — signed, sealed and delivered. – The Jewish Daily ForwardPost published in: News