Makarau opens up on 2018 polls

HARARE - Amid concerns over the adequacy of security measures to guard against unauthorised access to the voter registration database, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) this week said it will not be drawn into divulging details on this contentious subject, arguing that the matter was of security nature.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily News on Sunday, Zec chairperson Rita Makarau said the detailed security plan for the storage of biometric data was not an issue they can disclose to the public because such information was of a “security nature”.

“The specific details on storage and transportation of data are of a security nature, the details of which cannot be divulged in public forums,” said Makarau.

“Zec has made the transportation and storage systems as secure as possible with the assistance of experts from its co-operating partners,” she said without naming the “partners”.

This comes as Chinese firm, Laxton Group Limited, which won the $4 million tender to supply biometric voter registration (BVR) kits for registering voters ahead of the crucial 2018 general elections highlighted, in leaked documents, that there was lack of tangible protection mechanisms, leaving the BVR storage systems vulnerable to fraud.

The State Procurement Board settled for Laxton Group after it proposed a $3,9 million budget to supply the BVR kits.

A leaked risk report by Laxton Group Limited’s chief legal officer, Paul Bellin, raised grave concerns over the security of the voter registration data centre, and said any breach could dent its image.

“This is a highly alarming risk. Zec does not appear to have this infrastructure in place and when Laxton raised this issue, it fell on deaf ears.

“It was also made clear that Zec intends using an alternative company to provide the central system, which was even more alarming,” reads the leaked report to Laxton’s board of directors and security chiefs in Zimbabwe.

There are fears that Israeli company, Nikuv Projects International, could be called in to handle the voter database, and was likely to use the central registry database at the Registrar-General’s office, which will contain all person-identifying biometrics information in the country.

Nikuv’s involvement in the 2013 polls sparked an uproar in opposition circles, with Zanu PF’s rivals claiming the company was roped in to rig the election in favour of President Robert Mugabe’s party.

Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC claimed back then that the Registrar-General’s office paid the controversial Israeli-based company over $10 million to assist Zanu PF rig the July 31, 2013 polls, an allegation strenuously denied by Nikuv, the ruling party and the Zec.

Laxton said there must be elaborate security measures in place to prevent or detect tampering that risks soiling its credibility.

“If issues arise, it is virtually impossible to know who is accountable. With multiple parties handling the system, then who is responsible if an issue arises? It will make it too easy to point fingers at each other,” the Laxton Group report said.

An authoritative Zec source said voter data “will first be transferred, in encrypted form, from the BVR kits to hubs via special USB sticks.”

“Data from each region will then be assembled and cross-checked at the level of the regional biometric centre before being exported to the national biometric centre for processing,” said the source.

Zec is compiling a new voter register ahead of presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections next year, a mammoth task key to ensuring the vote is more credible than past polls.

The electoral commission is looking to register seven million voters through electronic voter registration kits, including laptop computers, fingerprint scanners, cameras and printers.

Comments (7)

Biometric voting lists are of course better than those without verification procedures (independent of the staff) but there is always going to be a way to cheat the system, particularly if you run the system, when there are no checks on power at the urn.? One individual with one set of finger prints can be listed on more than one electoral ballot, and if there is no one capable of independently verifying that that person did not vote more than once, the fact that he properly identified himself at each electoral bureau is irrelevant.? You are right to be suspicious of technological solutions to political problems.?

The Watchmen - 16 July 2017

ZEC Biased opposition political parties should take zec head on Line up all you tecnological expects and push for transparent they want to cheat... they cant talk of security ....security information ,the want to cheat using that route.Let everyting be open to everyone their duty is to administer only what everyone agreed on.....no...no...no.. to security information we want transparents also after that your systems must be tested.... a sample must be run where few people must cast their votes and check how your system response to multi- voting by an individual,,,,how it response to an un registered voter,,,,how it response to any error,,,,,question will not a rejected voter your system programmed to add points to ZECS FAVOURATE CHOICE. Opposition for forces sould come together and demand transparency the computer systems if not checked properly they might have as many cheating trickes as the manual voting system and now is very easy ZEC will programme everything in favour of zanu pf and this time all the opposition will loose dismally........demand political parties to have reps to work with zec or disband zec or you are wasting your time nad peoples time.....they will cheat in the name of maintaining secretes

dofo - 17 July 2017

They will programe everyting to the computer system infavour of ZANU PF.....WAKE UP OPPOSITIONS CHINESS EXPERTS ARE FULL OF SHEET

dofo - 17 July 2017

3.9 mil. for a system that's open to fraud. when their is secrecy involved then fraud can take place. E Voting systems need to use the block chain environment which ensures complete transparency and is not corruptible. This system does not seem to be transparent and is open to abuse.

Roy Westerberg - 17 July 2017

The issue of security on keeping the BVR information from polling stations after voting is on clear, results may be manipulated along the way from the polling station. My suggestion is, is it not possible to have any representative from any political party in Zimbabwe to monitor the movement of the data until the announcement day? Then the other issue is of delaying to publish electoral results, they must not take days from the day of voting to be published to the mass.

Ndondodza - 17 July 2017

Wake up guys,,this issue need to be investigated as soon as possible.Makarawu must be clear on everything. The issue of security is clear,,they must involve all the parties involve equal representatives.There is no security as far as the ruling party is concerned. If they use police,CIO what ever,,all of them are Zanu products

Matsotsi - 17 July 2017

Just like the 2013 voter's roll is so sacred that it cannot be availed to anyone. She's a witch.

Zuze - 17 July 2017

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