HARARE - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday accused President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF apparatus of recruiting Israeli officials to rig the 2018 election.
He spoke as analysts warned that the renewed fighting between government and the opposition may raise tensions, a year after a disputed presidential contest that unleashed accusations of ballot fraud.
Tsvangirai, who controversially lost last year’s presidential vote, said the plot centred around Nikuv, an Israeli IT firm. He said he had also unveiled fresh evidence of ballot fraud from last year’s poll that included coercing village administrative officials by the army to back his rival.
The MDC leader claimed rigging for the 2018 poll was now underway.
“Nikuv, I understand Nikuv is already in place and instead of actually hiring, now they have localised,” Tsvangirai told a news conference at Harvest House, the MDC headquarters in central Harare yesterday.
“They are training at KGVI (army headquarters). They are training local operatives so that they can continue the Nikuv programme.
“We are also aware of 14-year-olds who are being registered because by the time we go for the 2018 elections, they will be 18 years. All those are shenanigans that Zanu PF is putting in place before the next elections.”
Nikuv yesterday denied involvement in any rigging plot as Tsvangirai ordered a probe into the allegations. The ruling party and the military have previously denied that they helped Mugabe and Zanu PF retain power through ballot fraud.
“We regret that you have been provided with false, defamatory, slanderous information regarding our work in Zimbabwe,” Anat Saadon, PA to the Nikuv CEO said in e-mailed responses yesterday.
“Needless to say, the allegations made by the MDC leader against Nikuv at today’s press conference are blatant lies and utter nonsense. It is quite unfortunate that a senior Zimbabwean politician has chosen to base his political agenda on the lawful and proper work of a skilled IT company. Apparently, Nikuv is being used as an innocent scapegoat in Mr. Tsvangirai’s attempts to explain his political losses within his party and to his voters.
“These shameful efforts to drag a private service provider in Zimbabwe, such as Nikuv, into the heated political arena have been made before and Nikuv has always refused to be pulled into a political embattlement, and we continue to so refuse.”
Saadon said Nikuv was an established IT company which is managed within the framework of sophisticated, modern guidelines and standards which ensures the integrity of a modern, private company.
“Any attempt to claim otherwise is pure slander and defamation,” Saadon said. “This response applies to all of the allegations of Mr. Tsvangirai mentioned in your email and we shall not dignify each and every ridiculous and imaginary allegation with a formal response.”
Tsvangirai, a former prime minister and trade unionist, insisted there was a vote-rigging plot.
He said more evidence was tendered during his party’s national executive’s three-day retreat in Kadoma this week. He alleged that there were fresh details on how Zanu PF stole the vote.
“But perhaps, more interesting is the new details that continue to be revealed about how that election was a fallacy,” Tsvangirai said.
“The national executive heard more intriguing details only last week of how the people’s will was subverted.
“As I said in my letter to Sadc heads of State last week, we in the MDC are aware of how the theft was executed and last year we produced a detailed dossier of how the election was stolen, which dossier we distributed to all diplomatic missions accredited to Zimbabwe.”
Asked to reveal what fresh information he had received, Tsvangirai said: “Were you aware as journalists that the military was deployed at every traditional leader’s homestead to drive and frog march people to the election?”
“Were you aware of the elements of pungwes (all-night vigils) in rural areas to intimidate and coerce voters? Were you aware of the extent of Nikuv involvement in terms of voter displacement and voter disfranchisement?
“Ah, were you also aware that in one incident, in one constituency, all the returning officers in that constituency were relatives of the Zanu PF candidate, in Mberengwa? So, we can go on and on, the truth of the matter is that the election was not a contest but a (process of) retaining of power and nothing else.”
Mugabe won 61 percent of the presidential vote on July 31, followed by Tsvangirai at 33 percent, securing the 90-year-old in power for 34 years, another five-year term in office.
Tsvangirai said he was withdrawing the call for dialogue with Mugabe, and is now focusing on mobilising the people to confront the ruling regime.
“We are drawing a line in the sand and we shall pressurise and mobilise the people because those who claim to be in charge have not demonstrated any desire and commitment to solve the pressing national issues,” he said. “They have become by-standers while the country burns.”
He refused to be drawn on how he plans to confront the government, saying the form and content of the mobilisation and pressurisation is for the MDC to decide and not for media consumption.
Tsvangirai said his party’s national executive resolved not to participate in future by-elections or elections until agreed electoral reforms have been implemented.
He spoke as Mugabe yesterday signed into law the Electoral Amendment Bill.
“The national executive was seriously concerned with the persistent disputes over elections in the country and resolved not to participate in any election, including by-elections, until and unless all reforms are implemented,” he said.
The MDC leader warned Mugabe against the introduction of the youth service programme.
“The information I have, sadly, is that Mugabe, instead of doing everything possible to solve the crisis, is determined to confront the people by bringing back his militias to cow the nation,” Tsvangirai said.
“Let him be warned, that if we cannot live as free men and women in the country of our birth, we would rather die.”
The MDC leader said the government should fully implement the new Constitution and all other attendant reforms, including availing a transparent voters’ roll that will ensure a free, fair and credible poll.
“The national executive is seriously worried about the non-implementation of the Constitution, including the failure to reform all institutions of the State and to unshackle one party’s hold on key national institutions,” he said.
All party members who stood as independent candidates during last year elections have been pardoned, Tsvangirai said, adding that over 60 members who recently defected from the party have shown interest to rejoin his party.