Malawi 2014 Elections: ‘One citizen, one vote’ or ‘Loser takes all’?

Preamble:

Recently the media in Zimbabwe was awash with reports on the role that NIKUV International Projects Ltd played in President Robert Mugabe’s overwhelming victory. The various papers, citing different sources, alleged that NIKUV, working behind the scenes, lent a hand to President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF hence the “landslide” victory.

But since all this is now water under the bridge, despite Morgan Tsvangirai’s protests, President Robert Mugabe has since been sworn in;let us focus on Malawi, sweet Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa.

On August 30, 2013 the Zimbabwe Independenthttp://www.theindependent.co.zw/2013/08/30/banda-ropes-in-zim-nikuv/  reported that NIKUV is now in Malawiallegedly to help the incumbent win the 2014 elections by rigging the votersroll as was done more or less in Zimbabwe.

The Malawi Government, as expected, made the appropriate usualrebuttal choruseshttp://www.zimeye.org/?p=89060and last week Willie Kalonga CEO, added a baritone, assuring all and sundrythat all is well http://www.nyasatimes.com/2013/09/12/no-voter-disenfranchisement-efforts-says-malawi-electoral-commission/and the Malawi Electoral Commission is “independent” and free from interference.vote ballot

Before we proceed, let us digress and zoom on this so called“secretive company” which, as per Zimbabwe media, has links to MOSSAD.

The NIKUV enigma

Nikuv International Projects Ltd Company (NIP) was established in 1994, by Mr. Emmanuel Antebi, founder and CEO, as one of the subsidiaries of the Formula Group http://nipprojects.com/about-nip, the largest software group in Israel.

NIP was formed by a group of professionals with an accumulated experience of 45 years in the field of Population Registration& Election Systems in Israel. The company acts as an integrator of large Information Technology projects in international markets, focusing on projects for governmental sectors.

NIP initiated activities in the African continent in 1994 inNigeria, and has since expanded its activities to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana,Botswana and Angola in IT and additional areas like agriculture and security.

The company’s scope includes analysis, development,implementation and integration of systems for a range of diversified projects,of which the main ones are:

  •       Development and integration of widespread ITsystems, mainly for civil registry.
  •   Consultancy and implementation of large scalesafety and security projects, focusing on government-level VIP security.
  •  National agriculture constructions and watertechnology projects.

NIKUV and Elections:

With respect to elections, the company boast that the “NIP System is Designed to Assure – One Citizen, One Vote!”

This system handles and manages voter’s registration and election process. In addition to the system, NIP is capable of providing the necessary tools and appropriate voters’ cards and additional equipment for undertaking a successful election process.

If no voter’s database is available, NIP can install a datacapturing centre to create a reliable and accurate database. NIP provides therequired equipment, which is operated by local personnel trained by NIP.

The Election System includes the following modules:

  • Voter Registration.
  • Provinces and Ward demarcation.
  •  Creation and printing of voters roll by pollingstations.
  • Generation of supplementary voters roll afterupdate of inspection data.
  • Issuance of Voters’ Cards.
  • Nominations.
  • Election Results.
  • Election Central Information Centre.
  • Handling the various types of elections:Presidential, Parliamentary, Local Government (Mayoral).

NIKUV and Voter Registration

As per its website, “the Voter Rolls generated by the system are reliable and accurate thanks to verification process run by the system.According to the Election System design, registration to one of the election types will lead to an automatic registration to all other election types. To facilitate registration of individuals in remote areas, a mobile voters’registration can be implemented to cover the entire country.

The advanced Election System designed and implemented by NIP assureshttp://nipprojects.com/portfolios/election-systemthe principles of democracy, namely “One Man, One Vote”.

NIKUV: the Zambian Experience

Nikuv was hired to prepare the voter registers roll in 1995, prior to the 1996 parliamentary and presidential elections.

Note that Nikuv is the same company hired to prepare voters rolls for the last elections in Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

 These rolls were rejected by Zambia’s opposition, because preliminary checks revealed anomalies such as people being placed in wrong polling stations, incorrect names and in some cases, people who had registered to vote were simply omitted in the final registers.”  Zambian Watchdog, November  13, 2012 http://www.zambianwatchdog.com/sata-and-his-pf-said-to-have-used-nikuv-method-in-mufumbwe/comment-page-1/

It is worth noting that NIKUV’s award to conduct the Voters Registration Exercise had been contested by the opposition which lost the court case.  NIKUV went on to conduct the registration, with the results above.http://www.sokwanele.com/system/files/Nikuv%20Judgment%20Zambia%20Supreme%20Court.PDF

 Whither Malawi? Meeting a whistle-blower:

How true is this “One Man, One Vote” slogan? Before we consider this question, let me share an exchange I had with a senior Malawi Government official, verbatim:

GoM Official:      The government is very much in control of MEC despite the withdrawal of Vice President Khumbo Kachale who was dubiously appointment to oversee the commission. All the people appointed to MEC are working with one objective i.e. to retain the incumbent president come May 2014.

Wise One:           How?

Gom Official:      The Zimbabwean allegations that NIKUV, the company that managed Mugabe’s recent rigging is in Malawi and that it is helping MEC to manage the registration exercise are true.

I personally saw them in Zomba on the day when they were launching the Zomba and Districts phase. NIKUV staff(foreigners) was at the registration centres. They were identified as foreigners at Mandebvu Farm.

Wise One:           Interesting,go on.

GoM Official:      NIKUV is working with local hired guns namely Humphrey Mvula and ICT guru Edmond Kachale to manage the voters roll from registration through to the vote count.

These two with the help of NIKUV are simulating voting patterns and likely outcomes, and strategizing on how to manipulate the voters roll.

Wise One:           I am all ears

Gom Official:      For now, they have worked out [targeted]voter figures per district per region based on the Peoples Party (PP)’s popularity /stronghold.  Specifically targeted for heavy manipulation is the northern region, where they have projected voters to be 1.6million. The aim is to inflate the northern vote to diffuse projected loses in the Central and Southern Regions.

Wise One:           Sounds like you are making up stuff, explain how they will deal with the problem that the Southern and Central Regions are far more numerous than the north?

GoM Official:      They are and will be trimming voters in these Regions. If the actual registered figures in a constituency or district exceeds their planned figure, they are removing the ‘excess from the register’declaring those null registrations. The voters will turn up and like happened in Zimbabwe, will not be able to vote.

Wise One:           Sounds brilliant. Proceed.

GoM Official:      On the political front, they have ruled Atupele Muluzi out as a major contender; they are only counting Peter Mutharika and Dr LC as the serious challengers; but nevertheless in all opposition strongholds, they are and will continue to apply several tricks.

Wise One:           Specifics?

GoM Official:     The provision of faulty cameras for theregistration exercise is not an accident, neither is the provision of lessregistration materials and or in bits and pieces so that people are turned awayor frustrated.

Wise One:           Wellthe opposition should be able to observe these anomalies and pressurise MEC.

GoM Official:      Listen to this one and explain how the opposition will deal with it. What if MEC curtails the exercise and refuses to extend the registration period even in the face of all the above logistical and administrative “challenges”?

MEC is minimizing publication of dates and places for registrations in opposition strongholds so that the opposition supporters do not register in large numbers thereby reducing the voter demographics.

Another case in point is MEC’s denying funding to CSOs for publicity and awareness raising for the registration exercise. By holding onto this, they are able to control and achieve the minimal publicity.

Wise One:           Following,go on.

GoM Official:      When it is time for the north to register,the civic education and awareness will be massive – and maybe then you will believe me. And note this, while they are statistically analysing the registered voters as the registration is in progress, they are also buying off voter registration cards from opposition strongholds or those areas where they have PP members but with weak support. Case in point is the Lower Shire.

Wise One:           And of what use will these “bought cards” be?

GoM Official:      These will be used to boost the “votes” in PP strongholds like Zomba, Yao belt and the targeted North.

Wise One:           Fine I hear you. What if it were in your power would you advise Malawians and especially opposition leaders?

GoM Official:      Firstly, the opposition should not take this lightly. They need to be vigilant and proactive.

Wise One:           How?

GoM Official:      They should conduct intensive voter registration awareness in all their strongholds and mobilize people to register in the first days rather than wait.

Wise One:           Why?

GoM Official:      It is public knowledge that Malawians always wait for the last minute to go and register and since there is and will be deliberate under-provision of materials, coupled with “faulty cameras” in the closing days and with no extension given; many people may fail to register.

Wise One:           Sounds practical. Go on.

GoM Official:      The opposition should also sensitize people against selling their voter cards.

Wise One:           I hope they will read this, any final word?

GoM Official:      But what I would appeal for is for the opposition to make join efforts to monitor all these processes especially the voter registration exercise, and lodge complaints, publicise and put pressure on MEC to do the right thing. Otherwise, in 2014 we will have an election where the loser will take all.

Wise One:                       Keep in touch Sir, and for our politicians,“Ali ndi makutu amve!”

The NIKUV /Zimbabwe Experience extrapolated for Malawi:

Concern No. 1:   The Zimbabwe’s voters’ roll is at the centre stage in allegations of fraud. Zimbabwe’s law preserves the right for all parties and candidates to have a searchable electronic version of the voters’ roll in reasonable time before elections.

What happened = more than two weeks after the elections, an electronic copy of the voters’ roll was not made available. Why?

Concern No. 2:   Prior to the elections the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) claimed there were logistical problems with issuing a copy in electronic format. This claim was utterly absurd given the ease of electronic communication.

Conclusion = any reasonable person can only reach the only conclusion possible; namely, deliberate obstruction by ZEC.

Concern No. 3:   The opposition MDC-T received a hard-copy of the voters’ roll at 4pm on the day of the elections itself. But the size of the document – delivered in print and when the polls had almost concluded – provided little means for them to conduct proper analysis.

Fact = this was an insult to justice.

Concern No. 4:   Nevertheless,a sample – based on one constituency – was provided to the media a few days before 31 July by one party, and it demonstrated many names duplicated with minor changes made to details (see sample released to the media on this link herehttp://www.sokwanele.com/zimbabwe-elections/evidence-of-fraud).

Implication = This was to allow people to vote more thanonce for a party, and testimony from Zimbabweans on election day supports thisassumption (seehttp://www.sokwanele.com/zimbabwe-elections/evidence-of-fraud).That party was Zanu PF.

Concern No. 5:   The MDC-T also claimed it found 838,000 entries with the same name, address and date of birth but different ID number, 350,000 people who are more than 85 years old and 109,000 aged over 100 – including a 135-year-old army officer.

The absence of the voters’ roll is what prevented parties from challenging the results of the election in court. The MDC-T on 16 August 2013 withdrew its challenge because, without a copy of the roll which it still does not possess, it was unable to conduct the type of analyses required to form the basis of its challenge.

In the case of Malawi, we are if indeed NIKUV is on the loose; we will witness all or some of these scenarios, which will deny political parties the opportunity to conduct a proper verification.

On top of that, in all probability even if NIKUV has not been engaged officially, for all we know – utsi siwufuka popanda moto – they could be, behind the scenes, be helping Humphrey Mvula duplicate registration cards for use in districts and regions where the powers that be will want to inflate the votes.

Wise One’s Sign-Off: Nkhanga Zaona!

Believe it or not, unless the opposition jacks up from the slumber, we are all in for a huge surprise!

Whenever I hear someone yelling“Tawina kale, ndife owinawina” – I am adding them onto my list of “cardiac arrests” and “mourners” come May 2014.

The beauty of it all is that this patriot (the whistle blower) has promised to keep blowing the whistle so that come May 2014, for once NIKUV’s motto “One citizen, One vote” should make sense.

On my mind: If NIKUV is all about “One Citizen, One Vote” and if NIKUV is indeed in Malawi why so clandestine? If NIKUV wants to guarantee that your vote will count, why can’t the ruling party,the Malawi Government and NIKUV come in the open and inform the nation what are they up to?

I rest.

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