Monday, 28 April 2014

Judging "Mugabe Elections" - Of Hypocrisy and Double-Standards

ZANU PF victory was widely predicted by credible surveys,
 analysts and experts 
The elections in Zimbabwe whose outcome has been endorsed by all except the usual suspects across the world have gone and passed; but however issues which appear to cast doubt on the credibility and fairness of the elections are still being raised by the losing party leadership, supporters and foreign sponsors. 

It is however refreshing that some leaders in the opposition, led by the Secretary General of the MDC-T, Tendai Biti  have started revealing the truth about exactly why they lost the elections, dispelling the rumours and lies that were being peddled soon after the elections. 

There are still some in the opposition still clinging to the lies and self-denial signified recently  by one Douglas Mwonzora who is not only lying to himself but casting doubts on his judgement as a leader by ridiculously saying “Tsvangirayi  never lost an election” ; a denial which is aimed at "strategic partners" whose continued sponsorship is based on maintaining this falsehood. It is with such background and prevailing environment that this article seeks to explore the issues and controversies surrounding elections in other countries and why “Mugabe’s Elections” are judged using a different yardstick.

Some senior people in the opposition are now admitting that
 they lost to a better organised party
This discussion is centred on the observation that, when it comes to Zimbabwean elections, different rules and thresholds regarding fairness and credibility are being applied due to the regime change mind-set centred on President Mugabe prevailing in "MDC's Strategic Partners".

The fact that some participants will always cry foul afterwards and refuse to accept the results when
they do not go their way is as natural as breathing.  In Zimbabwe the losers have even invented fancy terms such as "building a war chest" (raising campaign funds), "Nikuving" (hiring a company for registration and preparing a voters' roll), "militarisation of elections" (whatever that means!), "bussing of people" (providing transport for voters) etc all normal activities in any election;  to convince its backers that the elections were not fair. They have even come up with an imaginary and ridiculous story of mutating ballots and "clever pens" to justify their loss! Even a senior member of the party, Morgan Komichi, was caught red-handed and convicted of interfering with election material to support the allegations.

Morgan Komichi a senior official from the MDC
was convicted of trying to make up evidence to support electoral fraud

It is however important for the preservation of democracy to bring this debate into context, exploring occurrences elsewhere in countries who are perceived to be leaders in democracy and other developing nations, because the perception of fraud can be damaging as it reduces voters’ confidence in democracy and makes people less inclined to accept election results, leading to breakdown of democracy.

In Zimbabwe’s case, it is giving hostile countries an excuse to continue their persecution of the people via sanctions, for example. This exploration does not in any way justify rigging on the basis that it occurs in other democracies but to provide evidence that voting irregularities are common and difficult to eliminate, and that it is normal for losers to use these as scapegoats for their failure. It also exposes the hypocrisy of the so called advanced democracies in condemning Zimbabwe on the basis of baseless allegations that are prevalent on their own doorsteps.

This is in no way condemning the subversion of the people’s will where it occurs or blatant rigging. Without solid proof, the dossiers being distributed around the world by the losers of the Zimbabwe elections will remain general allegations – and only just that; of some irregularities which are not unique to Zimbabwe, spiced up by some imaginary stuff. Such allegations have been raised by many losing candidates all over the world where elections have been judged to be credible, free and fair as concluded by the majority of observers in Zimbabwe. They could have as well been written in advance as extracts from a manual on "How to make excuses for losing an election".  Happy losers are scarce animals. 

Because of the long, on-going demonization of President Mugabe and the push for regime change by some external forces, the mechanisms of the 2013 Zimbabwe polls have come under unparalleled scrutiny. Credible surveys, predictions and analysis by various experts and organisations which pointed to a ZANU PF victory are strangely being ignored because the "wrong man" won. What have been a norm is suddenly being found to be an abnormality. For instance it surprised a lot of people that Nikuv has been operating in Zimbabwe since 1995, and have been involved in the registration of voters and compilation of the voters roll (including the 2008 elections in which the opposition 'won' the first round of the presidential elections); but their name has never been ‘popularised’ until now. 

Another example of this high level of unprecedented scrutiny, was the reported number of people turned way at polling stations in Zimbabwe (304 980; or 4.8 % of registered voters) which was highlighted as being anomalous, unusual, and evidence of fraud when statistics from other countries showed this figure to be quite normal, and even lower than in some countries such as Botswana which recorded 23% of registered voters being turned away in the 2009 elections. Other countries such as South Africa do not even consider this statistic, choosing to concentrate on the number that matters, which is that of people who voted. 

An Extract from the Daily Mail Regarding 2010 UK Elections
In the 2010 UK elections, there were reports of thousands of voters being turned away at polling stations for various reasons with the headlines screaming:
 Now we can't even organise an election: Scandal as tens of thousands of voters turned away in polling stations shambles”
It is therefore important to look at the various allegations which have been raised to see if they are unique/real or just excuses used by losing parties in elections in the world in general and have become part of their culture. It also important to ascertain whether the issues raised are general irregularities which come as part and parcel of the difficulties faced in organising national elections.

In Liberia for example, in the 2005 elections George Weah claimed elections were rigged when he lost to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. He went on to lose his case in the country’s National Electoral Commission court. In 2011 a similar situation to what happened in Zimbabwe’s presidential 2008 occurred in Liberia. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won the first round of elections. The opposition candidate withdrew from the second round citing rigging; the incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf went on to win the second round with 90.7% of the vote.  Nevertheless, international observers from ECOWAS and the Carter Centre commended the election, with the Carter Centre saying, 
"Liberia's run-off election was conducted in general accordance with the country's legal framework and international obligations, which provide for genuine democratic elections. While the run-off was undermined by the CDC boycott, the eruption of electoral violence, and low voter turnout, it allowed Liberians who wished to participate to express their will in a transparent and credible process.” 
Not so in Zimbabwe’s similar case; so, are the critics of Zimbabwe elections genuine or just picking on their figure of hatred, President Mugabe?

If one reads the report about the 2012 Algeria elections on the Aljazeera website; you would be mistaken for thinking you were reading the MDC-T ‘dossier’. The report claims that “All elections since 1992, when the regime annulled Algeria's only truly democratic elections, have been rigged.”  – the only difference is the ‘Foreign Reaction’ :

The Arab League's 132-member observer mission said the election was "transparent, credible and well-organised", while the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation praised the "successful and democratic elections... held in an organised, transparent and peaceful manner". Neither recorded any irregularities.US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed Algeria's elections as "a welcome step in Algeria's progress toward democratic reform", while Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, congratulated the people of Algeria "on the conduct of the elections and the progress they represent".Jose Ignacio Salafranca, head of the EU observer mission said that the vote was satisfactory and that "citizens were, in general, able to truly exercise their right to vote".

The discussion will examine some of the pertinent  issues raised in Zimbabwe Elections in 2013; in particular regarding the Voters Roll, Voter Registration and use of a foreign company in facilitating the registration process and compilation of the roll. 

Voters’ Roll

Dominating the areas of concern is the issue pertaining to the quality of voters roll and voters registration procedures. Even though issues pertaining to the voters’ roll have been raised in previous elections never before have such high level scrutiny of the voters’ roll been afforded to an election elsewhere. This issue is not new, as it has been raised in past elections. Hence the technological craze. In Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Somaliland and Ghana, electoral commissions have all recently introduced biometric technology — which recognises fingerprints and facial features — to draw up new electoral registers. Mali and Togo plan to follow suit, and there have been calls for Zimbabwe to do likewise ( by this author and others. All parties were therefore aware of how crucial this issue is pre e-elections.

The high profile Zimbabwe elections have demonstrated beyond doubt the importance of the voters’ roll in the holding of elections which will be judged to be credible and fair. Additionally it provides information that assists with election planning and logistics; not only for the administrators, but for the participants, that is, if they think strategically. For example parties can identify strongholds/non-strongholds, swing constituencies and marginal ones and concentrate their campaign strategy accordingly. The electoral roll was available to anyone before the referendum; right up to the elections anyone could have checked the electoral roll. Unfortunately in Zimbabwe, the importance of the roll for this purpose seems to be lost in the mindset of the losing party who appeared to want it before the elections in order to use it to prove rigging claims in selected constituencies after the elections rather than as a strategising tool well before elections. It would surely be of no other use after the closure of the registration exercise.

Unfortunately the absence of the electronic voters’ roll has been used as one of the biggest scapegoat by the losing side in Zimbabwe even though the paper version of the roll was available (hence the opposition where able to quote figures such as number of duplicate voters etc).

The author’s opinion is that an electronic voters’ roll should not be made available to the public but should be made available for viewing only at ZEC offices. This arrangement strikes a balance between privacy of the voters and the publication of the roll. Electronic voters’ roll can be easily manipulated and used to launch fake allegations by election losers – one can only look at the “Komichi” case to begin to see the confusion that will arise when people with such manipulative minds are availed an electronic version of the roll. The opposition however claimed that they had scanned and produced their own version of the electronic roll; they have however continued to conveniently use its absence as an excuse for their loss.

Voter Registration

Political parties across the world realise that they can only win elections if the number of their registered supporters outnumber that of the opposition. It can be that simple. Voters’ registration is a continuous process in Zimbabwe and this is explicitly provided for in Section 17 A of the Electoral Act which states that “Voter registration shall be conducted on a continuous basis so as to keep the voters rolls up-to-date.”  This is a very important and crucial step for participants which can make or break any prospects of winning an election. All election preparations and campaigning can be undone if this aspect of the process is not handled with the right intelligence and vigilance. Therefore even though there is the 30-day window for people to register before elections, parties would be expected to continuously mobilise their supporters to register well before this window, and not just leave it to the state, which is an interested party in most cases. 

The 30-day window is not unique to Zimbabwe, in Kenyan elections for example, voter registration ran from 19 November 2012 for 30 days. Indeed in its report in 2010 regarding voter registration, ZESN recommended that parties must “encourage citizens to continually check their registration status”. It is therefore naivety of the highest order for any participant to expect all eligible voters to be registered within a 30-day window. Indeed the AU report on the Zimbabwe 2013 elections had this to say regarding voter registration.

In general, they noted a peaceful and largely orderly conduct of these processes in all centres observed. The AUEOM noted that registration, though essentially slow in pace, experienced increased interest from potential registrants toward the closing phases, indicative of the level of enthusiasm amongst the Zimbabwean people to exercise their democratic right.”

This highlighted the fact that a number of voters, through lack of knowledge, human tendency to procrastinate, waited for the 30 day registration period to register as voters; with most waiting until the last minute to do so. To improve their system, and to allow all eligible citizens to vote, the Government of the Republic of Zambia implemented a project entitled “Support to the Electoral Cycle: 2009-2012 -project.” and passed legislation on ‘Continuous Voter Registration’, attaching high priority on its implementation. The Zimbabwean government can learn from this, and all participants should actively encourage continuous registration of citizens, rather than cry foul when their perceived supporters fail to register within the prescribed window which comes too close to the elections to be of strategic importance. Strategically, participant parties should be studying their support base, thinking about mobilising their potential voters to register throughout the period after elections up to the official registration period of the next elections. Intelligence gathering and strategising on findings is an absolute must for any political party with ambitions of winning an election. The importance and significance of doing so was captured by one participant in a debate about the then pending elections in Zimbabwe a month before the elections. He wrote:

"  ....... The solution would have been for the MDC T to have gone on a strategy to ensure that they register as much voters as possible. Instead they chose to run for primary elections and concentrated their efforts there too long whilst the ZANU PF party was continuing to make ground with the voter registration and also scrutinising the Voters Roll. Now it is geographically clear that Tsvangirayi can never win an election. The gap between Tsvangirayi and Mugabe is growing and ticking everyday into ZANU PF’s favour...just on voter registration profiles alone....and even for the senatorial race I do not see much changes as ZANU PF will reign supreme.”
(Facebook message sent to author on: 6 July 2013)

Compare this to another article entitled “Democrats post big gains in voter registration” ( in which the strategy used by Obama to register voters using volunteers is reported to have beard fruits for his campaign. It goes on to say:
“The Democrats hope their voter registration efforts can boost Obama to victory in competitive states like Pennsylvania, Nevada and Florida and perhaps even give him a shot at winning traditional Republican states like Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.”
It is a strategy acknowledged by critics of the recent Zimbabwe elections, but to suit their agenda they call it rigging. This is naively captured in an article on one of the websites which claims to be “a guide to rigging elections”. The author writes:

Mugabe began his rigging activities well before an official poll date was even confirmed. The first voter registration drive kicked off in May 2013, focusing mainly on ZANU-PF strongholds in the north. This allowed the party to get a head start in the process.” (

So if one party goes on a registration drive in Zimbabwe it is called rigging? How about practices elsewhere? In the months leading to elections, it is common in USA elections for example, for both the Republican and Democratic parties to make efforts to register voters. Another example of the importance of this exercise is cited in an article entitled ‘Democrats surpass Republicans in Delco voter registration” (  

In the UK, in May 2012, Ed Milliband launched Labour's biggest voter registration drive in a generation in an attempt to rebuild the support which delivered its landslide general election victory of 1997. With an estimated six million people already missing from the electoral register, he said the party had "a very long way to go to build the deep trust we need, to build the allegiance we need, to build the enthusiasm we need". ( One can find such examples all over the world where elections are held.

Therefore it is hypocritical to say the least, that in Zimbabwe, the fact that one party went on a registration drive whilst the other was sleeping or relying on the state and its arms to carry out the registration is an irregularity or evidence of rigging. It exposes failure in strategising and naivety by one party. Registration drives by participating parties is a common strategy in elections all over the world, and not unique to Zimbabwe or ZANU PF.

Inclusion of the Dead/Migrated and Duplication of Voters

The presence of dead and migrated voters on the voters roll was one of the controversial issues which were raised by the opposition and observers. This was exacerbated by the existence of a website which claimed to have an electronic version of the voters’ roll which enabled anyone to check if they were registered or not. A number of people in the Diaspora appeared to be surprised that there names were still on the voters roll, years after they had migrated.  Others who were on the ground also claimed that they were surprised to see names of their dead relatives, when they inspected the voters’ roll before elections and when checking for their names on the day of voting. The claims and existence of the dead, absent and repeated names is not unique to elections in Zimbabwe. It is quite a common occurrence in voters’ rolls due to the logistics involved in the process, but is commonly used to raise allegations of irregularities or rigging by losing candidates.

Nearly 2 Million Dead People are on the US electoral rolls
Cleaning the voters’ roll involves de-registering voters who no longer live in a particular constituency and removing deceased voters. It can, however, be difficult for the state administration to receive information on deceased voters. In fact, population statistics for African countries show that unreported deaths alone can lead to a voters’ roll inaccuracy of 10% within one electoral cycle of about five to six years.(Voter Registration in Africa, a Comparative Study, 2006) All these claims were therefore not surprising, additionally so, if one scrutinised the process involved in removing names for various reasons from the voters’ roll which is prescribed in the Electoral Act of Zimbabwe, which was signed on to by all participants.

The proof required for removal from voters roll on death or absence is quite onerous, requiring among other demands thata death certificate or authenticated copy relating to the voter sought to be removed; or a sworn statement by the mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter or other direct descendant of the voter sought to be removed that the voter is dead, or absent or a sworn statement by the councillor, Chief, headman or village head of the area or village where the voter sought to be removed last resided, that the voter is dead” (Zimbabwe Electoral Act). Without clear incentives for making such declarations, it is difficult to see many people coming forward to do so. It is therefore not surprising to see names of dead people appear on the voters roll given such provisions.  The migratory nature of people, particularly urban dwellers results in people being registered more than once in different constituencies as there are no fool-proof checks to see that the voter is still registered in another constituency, especially if this process is not automated. It is no surprise therefore, that this occurred more often in urban areas (the ‘opposition strongholds’) than in the rural areas where movement of people is not that common. This conveniently fitted with the claims by the Zimbabwe election losers that this was deliberately done in their traditional strongholds to facilitate rigging.

Conspiracy theories and rigging claims in the USA allege that Obama rigged his way to the Presidency
A study of what took place regarding voters’ registration in the disputed USA 2004 elections, controversially won by George Bush reveals striking similarities to Zimbabwe in terms of allegations related to this aspect by the losers of elections. Challenges regarding the validity of many new registrations were raised with “names such as Mary Poppins appearing on the voters’ roll” and duplication of voters was also raised. An analysis of Florida voter rolls in December 2004 alleged that over 64,000 registered voters had names that also appeared in a Social Security database of death claims. A New York Daily News article alleged 46,000 people registered to vote in both New York City and Florida. A Cleveland Plain Dealer article identified 27,000 people possibly registered in both Ohio and in Florida, with 400 possibly voting in both states consistently in the previous four years.

Recently in Virginia, there have been allegations by the Democratic that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote in Virginia. This followed revelations of duplication of voters and incidents of voters who appeared to have voted twice in previous elections. The error rate in the voters roll was found to be as high as 17 percent. In a statement, the State Board of Elections said “these were not errors; rather they are duplication registrations that require additional analysis..” ( This is in a country where death, birth and voting registration is allegedly advanced and automated, and which is incidentally pointing fingers at Zimbabwe.

In the UK, the issue of ‘ghost voters’ and duplication was highlighted in what was termed ‘granny-farming’ and the ‘Tipp-Ex trick’. In an article entitled ‘Vote-rigging is easy’ Nick Davies wrote,
In this country, however, there is no such doubt. Vote-rigging is well established and it is crafted with rat-like cunning. Just about nobody in politics complains about it - because just about everybody in politics knows that his or her own party has been implicated. It is the dirty little secret that they all share: they vote early and they vote often.” (
He goes on to make allegations of how ‘ghost voters’ had been registered, by hijacking names of students (foreigners and those too young to vote), use of addresses of abandoned buildings and adding a few extra houses to a street among other tricks. “Granny farming” related to an allegation of tricking of old people into signing forms and voting on their behalf (proxy voting); a form of “assisted” voting. Cases of MPs registering relatives in more than one constituency were also alleged. A case of Tory councilors turning up to cast proxy votes on behalf of people who had already voted for themselves, apparently unaware that anyone else had a claim on their vote was also made. It was reported that Brighton Council passed the complaints to the police who concluded that “there was insufficient evidence on which to prosecute anyone.”  Similar allegations were raised in Australia in the Perth mayoral elections of 2011. Allegations of stolen ballot forms which were later filled and used to vote cast a shadow on the elections. (

The Roll of Private Companies in Voter Registration and Voters Roll

One of the most controversial issues raised in the Zimbabwe elections was the hiring of an Israeli Company called Nikuv for registration of voters and management of the electoral process. Nikuv International Projects (NIP), a company that specializes in identification, electoral and government systems, holds a government contract with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Home Affairs to computerize all identification documents. The company has been working in Zimbabwe from as far back as 1995. This is part of an e-mail received by the author from a former employee now based in Israel; in response to an article written by the author urging biometrics for elections:

“My name is ……. At 1995 I served at Zimbabwe (mostly at the KG6 in Harare), establish a new computerized, registration system, from birth to death, that includes new (for that time) ID card and elections (presidential and parliamentary) follow-up system.”

The ID database compiled by the company was used in the 2008 elections voters’ roll. To enhance and sensationalise the claims of fraudulent intentions, the losers have described Nikuv as a ‘shadowy company’ with connections to Mossad. Nikuv is however a registered company which has operated elsewhere in Africa. Its perceived links to Mossad have remained an unproven allegation which appears to be populist.  The allegations regarding Nikuv are not new in Zimbabwe. In the 2008 elections in which the MDC’s Tsvangirayi won the first round of presidential elections, these allegations were raised.  At that juncture they even questioned the use of an open source (free) software to convert the database to PDF format (a format which is read only and can therefore not be manipulated) provided by a company from Israel, which was just an ignorant claim. Convert your PDF to elect Mugabe – unbelievable claim by one Biti, but true! Therefore, despite the current perception that Nikuv just emerged in the recent elections, the existence of Nikuv and its involvement in the electoral process was well known to the MDC - T, at least as far back as 2008 before they joined the GNU. The proof of payments being paraded remains that – proof of payment to a company contracted by the government. Why Mossad or Israel would want to assist Mugabe to retain power is still a mystery and until proven; will remain a populist claim designed to ride on ‘anti-Jewish’ feelings.

There is nothing, in itself sinister or illegal about the hiring of private/international/foreign companies to handle and manage voter’s registration and election process, in particular from Israel. Israel’s reputation in producing security systems is unparalleled, necessitated by the need to protect itself given the situation in the Middle East. NIP has managed electoral processes in Zambia, Ghana, Botswana and Angola. It is reportedly helping with the electoral process in Malawi. Most countries in Africa, including Kenya, Mozambique, Mali and others have used foreign companies to assist electoral processes. Allegations of voters’ roll manipulation by private companies have been raised, in the majority of these cases by the losing parties – it is a very common phenomenon; not only in Africa. For example, in 2000 elections in Florida, a company called Database Technologies was hired by the State of Florida to clean up its voter rolls. The database’s process led to the allegations of disenfranchisement of thousands of voters most of them Democrats. In the USA 2004 elections, in the states of Nevada and Oregon, a company hired by the Republican National Committee solicited voter registration forms, but was accused of filing only the Republicans’ forms and shredding those completed by Democrats. Individuals linked to non-profit organizations, ACORN and the NAACP, were accused of submitting false voter registration forms and of carelessly or deliberately failing to submit some valid ones that they had received.

Accusations and allegations of rigging have dogged recent Australian
 In Australia, the allegations of private companies being paid for “rigging’ opinion polls were at the centre of the recent elections. In an interview Clive Palmer was asked what gave him confidence that he would win as many as 15 seats at the election. Palmer responded by saying that:

 “When I was former party director there were polling companies I used to give large donations to and they would write results for them”. He went on to say; “Of course the polling’s rigged. Rupert Murdoch owns Galaxy poll and Newspoll and the media tries to set the agenda and determines the result of an election before it’s been held..” ( 

The allegations being raised regarding the role of Nikuv are therefore not new, or unique. They are a permanent feature of allegations which are raised by losing parties in elections looking for scapegoats, excuses or explanation for their loss. Because elections are not an everyday occurrence, governments will continue to higher experts for the election period, and such allegations will remain part and parcel of the so called “rigging dossiers”.


There is no doubt that there is an inevitable conflict between the search for electoral perfection and the interests of observers and participants in elections. In any electoral system, there is bound to be errors in electoral registers and some irregularities in the process. The acceptable margins are controversial and subjective and are always manipulated by the losers and their supporters, sponsors and sympathisers in order to advance their interests. Electoral perfection will remain elusive, and it is down to all, in the interest of democracy to find an objective, optimal and feasible way of judging elections, rather than to stretch the yardstick when things have not gone one’s way.

The writing was on the wall - MDC-T "covered itself in mud" but is
now complaining that  "people are calling it dirty"
Electoral perfection should not be used as a standard for democratic legitimacy because even the best designed and best operated processes can result in errors, as have been seen to occur around the world. From these observations, it can be seen that the issues raised by the losers in the Zimbabwe elections regarding the voters’ roll, registration  process and the participation of private companies in the process are very common and appear to be part and parcel of allegations which are raised in any election. 

It is therefore unsurprising that the so called laughable “rigging dossier” has not had any significant impact on how the elections in Zimbabwe were perceived; because the seasoned ones can see right through it, as a desperate attempt to find a scapegoat for failure. Some countries ("vana gundamusaira kunge hwiza”) that had been bulldozed into condemning the election results are beginning to see sense, indicated by the partial but inadequate lifting of EU sanctions. And most significant in all this is the gradual emergence of the truth from the MDC-T leadership itself; that they were defeated fairly in the elections due to complex election messages and immature schoolboy strategies of concentrating on immaterial things such as contestants’ age rather than tangible policies. 


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