Forward Thinking

Robert Mugabe's Israeli Connection

By Dave Goldiner

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images
Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe has succeeded in staying in office for 33 years with a potent mix of populism and violence — and he may have an Israeli company to thank if he extends his rule one more time.

The 89-year-old leader faces his sternest test yet next week when he squares off in a presidential election rematch against longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai.

Few doubt that Mugabe, a former liberation war hero, would be trounced in anything close to a free or fair election — he has presided over the collapse of a once promising economy and engineered the billion-percent bout of hyperinflation that killed the Zimbabwe dollar.

That’s where a company called Nikuv comes in. It is working with the Zimbabwe government’s Registrar General, which among other things maintains the country’s famously corrupt electoral roll.

Investigative journalists and opposition leaders believe Nikuv’s real role is to help Mugabe’s loyalists rig the July 31 poll.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change party said it was “concerned about electoral fraud [by Nikuv] through manipulation of the voters’ roll, and the issuing of multiple national identity cards to individuals that would then allow them to vote twice.”

In past elections, turnout was suspiciously high in ZANU-PF’s rural strongholds. Widespread problems with the roll led to lower turnout in cities and towns, where the ruling party is wildly unpopular.

The Zimbabwe Independent reported that Tsvangirai questioned Nikuv’s role during a meeting he held with Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Rita Makarau last month.

Nikuv, which is based in Hertzliya, Israel, has been operating in Zimbabwe since 1994, and has presided over the increasing corruption of the electoral roll.

Unlike many developing nations, Zimbabwe requires all voters’ names to appear on the roll. If a voter is not on the roll, he or she cannot vote — making it a powerful tool in the hands of the ruling party.

The respected and independent Research and Advocacy Unit asserted that more than 1 million Zimbabweans who are dead or have left the country are still on the voters’ roll. It also says the roll lists 116,000 people older than 100 — until recently, Ian Smith, the late leader of white-ruled Rhodesia, was still listed in his district in the farming town of Beatrice.

More disturbingly, the RAU report says 78 parliamentary out of 210 constituencies have more registered voters than adult residents, making them ripe for rigging. An estimated 2 million voters under the age of 30 are unregistered, even after a registration exercise that barely made a dent in the ranks of the unregistered.

Nikuv, for its part, denies any partisan funny business and blamed the reports on election-time politicking.

“It is election time and people are trying to throw mud from this side and the other side,” Ron Asher, the company’s representative in Zimbabwe, told the Mail & Guardian of South Africa. “We are legitimate and professional. We have never been involved in any politics, not now or ever.”

He said that Nikuv works with public sectors across the world, but declined to say which government bodies it works with in Zimbabwe.

The company’s website says that the company was established in 1994 by a group of professionals with an accumulated experience of 45 years in the field of population registration and electoral systems in Israel.

It says it specializes in population registration, identity documents, passports and electoral systems. Nikuv’s electoral sevices
 include voter registration, election district demarcation and the creation and printing of documents, such as voter ID cards.

It’s not the first time the company’s operations have come under scrutiny in southern Africa.

Opposition figures in Zimbabwe’s northern neighbor Zambia cried foul in 1996 after the company won a $6.7 million contract to handle voter registration. They claimed Nikuv was brought in to rig the elections that would keep the then-ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy party in power, but a lawsuit over the issue was dismissed on technical grounds.

Ironically, Israel has no diplomatic ties with Zimbabwe and Mugabe is one of the harshest critics of the Jewish state on the international stage.

Mugabe forged close ties with Israel’s arch-enemies Moammar Qaddafi of Libya and the Islamist government of Iran. That didn’t stop his government from reportedly buying Israeli-made water cannons/2) for its feared police force, which is often deployed to break up opposition protests.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: zimbabwe, robert mugabe, nikuv, morgan tsvangirai, israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.