As crucial presidential and parliamentary elections loom in Zimbabwe, a secretive Israeli-based company – accused of manipulating past elections in the region – is alleged to be involved in managing the Zimbabwean voters’ roll. Eddie Cross, a Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP who has proved to be well informed on security matters in the past, told the Mail & Guardian that he had been informed by security sources that the company, Nikuv International Projects, is working on the roll at Defence House, the headquarters of the Zimbabwe Defence Force. The MDC also alleged that Nikuv was a front for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, although it offered no evidence to support the claim. It is unclear what Nikuv’s involvement in this coming election is but it specialises in population registration and election systems. Cross said the source told him that the company is working under the direction of Daniel Tonde Nhepera, the deputy head of the Zimbabwe’s dreaded internal security arm, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). Another Zimbabwean intelligence source confirmed to the M&G the allegation that Nikuv is working on the voters’ roll “with the CIO”.
In the run-up to the disputed 2008 elections, Zimbabwean opposition parties accused the company of assisting the Zanu-PF government to manipulate the roll in favour of Robert Mugabe. Suspicions of election-rigging were heightened when Zimbabwe’s electoral commission took five weeks to release the results of the election. The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, calculated that he had won much more than 50% of the votes in the first round of polling but, when results were eventually published, he was credited with 47.9% against Mugabe’s 43.2%, forcing a run-off.
A campaign of violent intimidation led Tsvangirai to withdraw from the second round, leaving Mugabe in power.
The Israeli embassy in Pretoria took the unusual step of issuing a statement at the time, denying that Mossad was involved in any way in the elections. But now an amaBhungane investigation has found that top executives of a Nikuv associate company, ISC International Security Consultancy, have an Israeli intelligence background and Nikuv has been linked to other cases of collaboration with the Zimbabwean security services as well as to questionable tenders in the region.