The Harare-based head of the shadowy Israeli company working on the Zimbabwean voters roll, Nikuv International Projects, has hotly denied that it is involved in rigging the July 31 poll in favour of Zanu-PF.
Nikuv's Ron Asher said this week that the company had never been, nor would ever be, involved in politics and that it was "legitimate and professional".
Last week Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) complained about Nikuv to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, claiming that the company was manipulating the voters' roll to favour Zanu-PF.
There have also been allegations that Nikuv, whose headquarters is in Herzliya, Tel Aviv, is a front for Israeli intelligence.
Asher said: "It is election time and people are trying to throw mud from this side and the other side. We are legitimate and professional. We have never been involved in any politics, not now or ever."
He said that Nikuv worked with public sectors around the world, although he would not say which government bodies it was working with in Zimbabwe.
The company's website says it manages voter registration and election processes by "providing necessary tools and appropriate voters cards and additional equipment for undertaking a successful election process". Electoral services include voter registration, ward demarcation, the creation and printing of the voters' roll by polling stations, a central information centre and the management of election results.
A senior Zimbabwe Cabinet minister who asked to remain anonymous told amaBhungane last month that Nikuv had been operating in Zimbabwe for more than 10 years and was mainly based at the National Registration Bureau in Borrowdale, Harare.
The bureau is the national civic registration centre and falls under the registrar general's office.
The minister claimed that Asher was working directly with the registrar general, Tobaiwa Mudede.
However, in a July 15 letter addressed to the MDC-T secretary general, Tendai Biti, which amaBhungane has seen, Mudede denied that Nikuv was in a position to manipulate the voters' roll. He said: "Nikuv has no control over our voters' roll. The mandate to register voters and compile the voter's roll rests with the registrar of voters."
Veteran politician Dumisa Dabengwa confirmed that Nikuv was hired in 2000 when he was home affairs minister "specifically to upgrade the computers for the purposes of computerising the central registry, birth certificates, passports and national identity documents.
"The only time they [Nikuv] attempted to get involved in electoral processes was when they ?recommended in 2000 that they would want to introduce voting cards for people that would last [for] four elections," Dabengwa said.
However, the government had not adopted the proposal. "If ever they were then later used for other electoral processes by the state, that is not to my knowledge," he said.
Dabengwa left Zanu-PF and now leads Zapu, which has joined an election coalition with Welshman Ncube's MDC.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe High Court interdicted nongovernmental research organisation Research and Advocacy Unit from launching and publicising its full analysis of the voters' roll at a Harare hotel on Wednesday.
Judge Joseph Mafusire upheld an urgent application by Mudede, which claimed that the organisation was attempting to usurp the constitutional powers of the registrar general's office and intended to cause "chaos and anarchy within our electoral system".
In a preliminary report, the organisation said that a million Zimbabweans who were dead or had left the country were still on the voters' roll; that the roll listed 116 000 people over the age of 100; that there were 78 constituencies with more registered voters than adult residents; and that two million voters under the age of 30 were not registered.
In a written response, electoral commission chairperson Rita Makarau said it had raised certain issues about the research unit's "assumptions" but had not received a response. – Additional reporting by M&G Harare Correspondent
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