An Israeli company, Nikuv International Projects, is accused of having rigged elections in Africa in favor of the ruling party. In 2013, a story surfaced in allafrica.com that the security company was used to manipulate elections in Zimbabwe to ensure the victory of the ZANU PF party. It is alleged that Nikuv was paid $10 million to fix the election. Now, news stories are appearing that say 3 officials from Nikuv are working “around the clock” to guarantee a 70% landslide victory for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in Zimbabwe.
In 2013, when Mugabe won the elections in Zimbabwe by 60% of the vote, the defeated candidate, Morgan Tzvangirai alleged the vote was tainted, and passed a petition alleging fraud and demanding a recount. Nikuv’s office, in a higher-end neighborhood of Avondale in Harare, was abruptly closed down and the executives working there departed.
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Some of the stories that are circulated seem to be based largely on rumor, especially with insinuations that Nikuv is associated with the Mossad, but if there is even a grain of truth in these reports, the result could obviously be damning and further taint the reputation of Israeli businesses that have clients abroad.
Nikuv executives are said to have “taken over” the production of passports at the KGVI barracks in Zimbabwe. It is hard to know whether “taking over” might mean simply providing the regular passport and identification card services advertised on the company’s website. Also, a company representative was said in Zimbabwe’s media to have declared that Nikuv intends to “consolidate its position in the government, ” an odd thing for the representative who is providing services to say outright, especially if he or she intends to work covertly to rig elections.
It isn’t uncommon for conspiracy theories to develop over advanced technologies, such as fingerprinting, scanning, identity cards and collecting data on populations. Added to that “to Nikuv” is apparently becoming part of the slang in Zimbabwe, meaning to cheat, much like the anti-Semitic slur to “jew” someone i.e. to “Nikuv” someone.
In a world with growing anti-Semitism, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that paranoia would develop over an Israeli company dealing with sensitive information used by government offices, particularly if the population is discontent. However, abuses can happen, and further investigation is required to substantiate or disprove the allegations.
Whether Nikuv is guilty or innocent, the seeds of mistrust and rumor have already been sown in Africa.