When opposition party leaders bought irrigation equipment, they did not know who they were dealing with.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change is crying foul over the alleged role of Nikuv International Projects in rigging Zimbabwe’s July 31 general elections, but the Mail & Guardian can reveal that the party’s top brass, including party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, was dealing with the Israeli company as early as last year through a subsidiary that deals in agricultural equipment.
Now there is deep concern in the party that the security of its top leadership could have been compromised.
The M&G has reported in the past that Nikuv, hired by the Zimbabwe government, has links to the Israeli intelligence organisation, Mossad.
It has emerged that Nikuv’s sister company, Pedstock Investments, supplied and installed drip irrigation equipment at Tsvangirai’s rural home homestead in Humanikwa village in Buhera, Manicaland, some time last year.
Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khuphe, the party’s vice-president, also allegedly benefited or bought the same drip irrigation equipment, and Tsvangirai’s trusted lieutenant and chief secretary, Ian Makone, and his wife, Theresa, who is the outgoing home affairs minister and the MDC-T Women’s Assembly leader, also had a drip irrigation system installed at her Domboshava home.
This week Theresa Makone confirmed that Pedstock had installed irrigation systems at her Domboshava home, at Tsvangirai’s Buhera home and at Khuphe’s home (without specifying the area).
But, she said, at that time she and her superiors were unaware of the links between the company and Nikuv.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, also confirmed that an irrigation system was installed at Tsvangirai’s rural home, although Tamborinyoka could not confirm that it had been installed by Pedstock because he was in hospital when Tsvangirai held a “field day” in November last year during which the equipment was showcased.
Tamborinyoka said he would get back to the M&G with more information but he had not done so by the time of going to print. It could not be established who paid for Tsvangirai’s irrigation system although Makone insisted all the officials had paid for their own. But Makone said the MDC officials would not have dealt with Pedstock had they known of its Nikuv roots.
“If we had known that Nikuv is involved in stealing the elections from us, we would not have dealt with them,” Makone said.
After the installation of the equipment, Tsvangirai invited MDC-T ministers and his neighbours to see the project, which he said was a model for how to alleviate hunger.
The Makones also held a field day on July 10 to show off their equipment and farming project.
Realising a link
Makone said she realised there was a link between Nikuv and Pedstock when she was hosted by Nikuv while on official ministerial business last year.
“The purpose of the trip was to see the type of security systems that the company offers, as Israel has some of the best systems in the world. On that trip, that’s when I got to know the extent of Nikuv’s business and their link to Pedstock,” she said.
During her visit to Israel, Makone met Emmanuel Antebi, the founder of Nikuv, which made her aware of the link between Pedstock and Nikuv.
Makone said she financed the irrigation project out of her own pocket. She paid Pedstock, which she believed was just an agricultural company, $20 000 for the equipment.
She said the irrigation covered half a hectare of her two-hectare stand. She said she knew about the company because it was situated on a road she used when going home.
Makone said there was nothing sinister about the fact that she gave business to Pedstock because it had “appeared [to be] just like any other business”.
She also said Pedstock’s service in the business of installing and servicing irrigation systems was “unparalleled” in Zimbabwe and she did not know of any other business that offered that type of equipment.
But now that the links to Nikuv had surfaced, Makone said she was “concerned”. Pedstock office staff who spoke to the M&G did not deny that the company is related to Nikuv but refused to divulge the nature of the relationship.
They said the department that could answer questions about the company’s ownership and its directors was closed. They refused to give the names of senior managers of the department who might be able to provide the information. On Pedstock’s website, the company gives a Mount Pleasant address but does not list the names of its managers or the board or directors.
Khuphe could not be reached for comment. She was said to be in Malawi representing the party at the Southern African Development Community summit scheduled to take place in Lilongwe on Saturday.
Zanu-PF presidential candidate President Robert Mugabe secured 61.09% of the vote to Tsvangirai’s 33.94%, but Tsvangirai has described the election as a sham and declared the results “null and void”.
He filed a petition in the Constitutional Court on Friday August 9 seeking the nullification of the results.
He also wants fresh elections within 60 days. Tsvangirai petition will be heard on Saturday.
Tsvangirai cites a number of irregularities, among them Nikuv’s role in manipulating the voters’ roll, which led to the disenfranchisement of thousands of people.
He also argues that the voters’ roll, which was allegedly prepared by the registrar general’s office with the assistance of Nikuv, had many double entries, raising the possibility of double voting.
A dossier of evidence has also been supplied to regional leaders ahead of SADC summit.
Among other things, it has records of payments from the registrar general’s office to Nikuv.