By Ian Birrell
Damning top-secret intelligence documents that expose Robert Mugabe’s plans to rig the forthcoming election in Zimbabwe and crush his political rivals have been handed to The Mail on Sunday.
The dossier reveals in astonishing detail how Mugabe is plotting to steal millions of votes with massive and systematic ballot-rigging combined with widespread intimidation by party thugs.
His tactics, along with details of massive funding from named British, Chinese and African backers, are disclosed in highly confidential papers written for his closest aides.
They were obtained from intelligence sources who risked their lives to expose the covert campaign to keep 89-year-old Mugabe and his brutal military cabal in power.
The documents explain how ‘unfavourable voting outcomes’ for the ruling Zanu-PF party will be ‘countered’ for a multi-million-pound fee to an Israeli company that has been helping the dictator for a decade.
They also show how Mugabe’s desperate bid to retain power in the nation he has ravaged during 33 years of repressive misrule is being aided by the Chinese government, fellow African dictators and secretive diamond mining firms.
Ominously, the leaked papers reveal the recruitment of armed militia and talk of the need for ‘disciplinary action to enemy leaders,’ saying the use of ‘absolute neutralisation of the enemy…is recommended when necessary.’
Peter Hain, the former Africa minister and campaigner against blood diamonds, said: ‘This confirms our worst fears about democracy being prostituted in Zimbabwe.’
The South African-raised MP added: The Government and EU cannot turn a blind eye to such abuses when democracy is being destroyed and the opposition muted in such a manner.’
The documents, prepared for the head of Zimbabwe’s highly feared Central Intelligence Organisation and the Joint Operations Command (JOC), the body that oversees state security, contain a number of alarming disclosures.
Nikuv International Projects, an Israeli firm, is being paid $13 million (£8.5 million) to manipulate voter registration, counter ‘unfavourable’ results and ‘neutralise’ opposition votes.
The Chinese government is helping with ballot rigging, advising on voter intimidation and providing jamming equipment to silence independent radio stations.
Already, 45,534 youths have been trained and deployed across the country in armed militia to ‘stem resistance’, with another 7,343 undergoing training and ‘mass reorientation classes’ to be ready three days before polling.
Security forces are adamant that six Zanu-PF moderates ‘must be STOPPED’ from standing. One of the named politicians, Edward Chindori-Chininga, died last month in a suspicious car crash. His family say it was an assassination.
Funding for the covert campaign is coming from controversial diamond companies, the presidents of two African countries and prominent business figures from Britain, China and Zimbabwe.
Millions of dollars are being directed towards leaders of southern African countries providing independent election monitors to ‘drum up support for poll credibility before, during and after elections’.
The Mail on Sunday was passed the dossier by intelligence figures frustrated with the barbarity and rigid discipline of Mugabe’s Marxist-influenced regime. ‘There are lots of us who hate the way things are done by the old guard,’ said one.
This source, a senior official among the estimated 300,000 spies in Zimbabwe, was clearly nervous when we met in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. Security forces are caught up in factional feuding among the generals and politicians plotting to succeed Mugabe.
The election in ten days’ time is Mugabe’s last roll of the dice after three decades in power during which time his regime has wrecked the economy, ruined key public services, helped halve life expectancy and driven about one in six Zimbabweans into exile.
The previous poll in 2008 was held against an appalling backdrop of poverty and starvation caused by the second-worst case of hyper-inflation in history, peaking at 231 million per cent. Shops had no food, hospitals closed and Aids was rife.
The opposition Movement For Democratic Change won elections in 2008. But after Mugabe’s goons started to slaughter their rivals, foreign diplomats forced the creation of an uncomfortable coalition with the despot back as president and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister.
After introducing the dollar as currency, the economy stabilised – yet close to nine in ten people remain unemployed.
The leaked papers show a clear strategy led by security forces in alliance with the Chinese communist party and Nikuv to ‘neutralise hostile votes in urban areas’ where MDC support is highest.
Among the tactics are under-registering voters aged under 35 and over-registering older people, who are more likely to vote for Mugabe. They also discuss ‘parallel registration through party offices with strict advice from Nikuv International for statistical manoeuvring’.
Reports released last week by independent monitors confirmed the scale of Zanu-PF’s electoral corruption. In a country with a population of fewer than 13 million people, and an average life expectancy of 51, there were found to be 900,000 duplicate entries on the register, including 109,000 people aged over 100. ‘There might be five centenarians at best,’ one doctor confided.
Two million young people remain unregistered. The leaked documents disclose the electoral commission has orders to register fewer than ten people per day in some areas.
The dossier underlines both the need for, and effectiveness of, such tactics. In one region, they reveal Zanu-PF membership has fallen ten per cent since the last election.
Another section, written at the start of last month, discusses Mugabe’s electoral prospects in different parts of the country. It says: ‘Records, reconnaissance and collaborated intelligence show that Midlands Province alone has the potential of producing 450,000 votes by July end.
Mashonaland Central and West can produce a total of 1.2 million votes over and above already recorded friendly votes.’
It adds: ‘Intelligence officers will take a lead role in party structures to set housing schemes, re-orient the beneficiaries and populate them on the voters roll through party offices and Nikuv International Projects.’
Nikuv did not return calls or emails about its activities in Zimbabwe. However, a spokesman was quoted by a South African paper earlier this month saying it was a legitimate and professional company: ‘We have never been involved in any politics, not now or ever.’
It also pointed out it had no control over the electoral roll.
The security files show the generals tightening their grip on Zanu-PF, helping security staff defeat civilian candidates ‘whose indiscipline cost the party’.
Yet they also reveal the regime meeting opposition from civilian supporters – although it’s said that ‘re-orientation through mass mobilisation and covert coercion has achieved results’.
One document chillingly headed ‘Operation Return To Zanu-PF’ says there is an urgent need for mass recruitment of youths under armed leaders to ‘stem resistance’.
The dossier lists the numbers already recruited in each region and the name of the top military officer in charge, saying deployments of trained gangs will ‘direct enemy neutralisation’.
South African intelligence and local human rights groups have observed a big rise in supplies of weapons and vehicles going into Zimbabwe in recent months amid fears hardline military chiefs will mount a coup if their plans to steal the election are thwarted.
‘Zanu is led by people who won a war of liberation and seem to think they are still fighting,’ said Jessie Majome, a lawyer and leading MDC figure. ‘They just keep on fighting and want to crush us. I am fearful.’
The leak also underlines the close links between China and Zimbabwe following previous reports of diamonds and gold being exchanged for arms by Chinese dealers.
There are reports on nine trips out of the country in just six weeks earlier this year by named individuals moving huge quantities of diamonds and money between Zimbabwe, Angola, Dubai and China.
The papers show how much of the regime’s funding, security training and tactical advice comes from China. They reveal great anxiety over ‘enemy’ pirate radio stations adding that China has ‘donated and is installing new short-wave jammers and updating old equipment’.
Other funds were listed as coming from two controversial diamond mining firms with links to the Zimbabwean military.
Nicholas van Hoogstraten, the notorious British property mogul, is recorded as donating $3 million (£1.96 million). He has long been close to Mugabe. Van Hoogstraten confirmed to The Mail on Sunday that he had given money to Zanu-PF, but said it was not being used to rig election results.
The dossier also shows that military chiefs attending an election meeting at an airbase last month were told of payments of tens of millions of dollars from Joseph Kabila, the Congolese president, and Teodoro Obiang, corrupt ruler of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.
As the election gets closer, violence and intimidation are increasing, with opposition activists coming under attack from Mugabe supporters. Mugabe has stepped up the use of forced attendance at party rallies and state patronage.
There are plans to make villagers in rural areas attend pungwes – all-night indoctrination meetings used in the liberation war to incite supporters – three days before voting.
Security officials are also setting up hundreds of party bases – rooms used to torture Zimbabweans who refuse to give in to their pressure.
Yet the documents show a third of Mugabe’s election fund is being spent on ‘regional diplomacy’ to ensure a clean bill of health from the Southern African Development Community, the 14 nations whose observers are monitoring the election.
The crocodile, a £7 billion will, and a fast food war… the bizarre backdrop to vital vote
As the warm winter sun beat down, newspaper editors and businessmen dined on crispy chicken and fat steaks cooked on the barbecue.
The restaurant, opened just months ago in the gorgeous grounds of the old colonial bowling club, symbolises both the changes in Zimbabwe and hopes of a peaceful future after such a tumultuous past.
It was hard to envisage a more idyllic scene. Yet it is deceptive. For discussions at the tables centred on the crucial few days ahead in the life of this beautiful, battered nation. First comes the hastily called election in ten days’ time amid grotesque ballot-rigging and rising violence.
It is a short campaign, designed so it can be endured by a doddery dictator whose body is riddled with cancer, face is frozen with Botox and hair is coloured with dye.
Then comes the critical aftermath – and whatever the result, things could get nasty. If Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC wins despite losing some of its sheen in office, there are fears hardline elements in the security forces could unleash another reign of terror, torture and mass murder – or simply mount a military coup.
If Robert Mugabe retains his presidency, there will be jostling for succession between rival Zanu-PF camps that could turn violent.
Curiously, despite his dreadful record, Mugabe’s biggest weakness is that he cares deeply about his reputation, which is why he is desperate to appear to win the election and get the last Western sanctions lifted.
‘He wants to end his career with dignity and win back respect,’ said one well-placed observer. ‘But most of all, he does not want to end up in The Hague.’
After the blood-stained ballot in 2008, foreign diplomats threatened Mugabe and his circle with the International Criminal Court in order to force them into coalition with their enemies. It has been an uneasy union – one minister told me senior civil servants in her department were barred from speaking to her, let alone sharing policy – but it salvaged the country.
Some of those close to Mugabe suspect this cold and calculating man is so weary of party infighting he would privately prefer to lose; he is thought to have offered to step down after losing the 2008 vote until told to stay put by his generals.
‘He knows everyone is giving him fake smiles when they really want him to go,’ said a source. ‘And he also knows that if he wins the factions start fighting and there will be terrible bloodshed.’
The two key camps revolve around ‘The Crocodile’ – feared defence secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa, currently in the ascendancy – and his comparatively moderate rival, vice-president Joyce Mujuru.
Her husband, a former army chief said to be the only man to stand up to Mugabe in meetings, died in a suspicious fire two years ago. Gunfire was reported to have been heard beforehand.
It is rumoured Mujuru’s will was worth £7 billion, demonstrating obscene levels of corruption among the supposed communist comrades while most of the population struggles in poverty.
Such is the dislike between the two camps, their families even feud over rival fast-food outlets, with Mujuru’s nephew positioning his chain of chicken bars close to Mnangagwa’s Nando’s restaurant franchises.
The defence minister also has massive gold and diamond mining interests.
These are what make the election such a high-stakes affair. For after the last election the security forces began milking the world’s biggest diamond minefields in Marange, earning billions for the generals and funding a Chinese-fuelled arms build-up.
A government insider told me that in 2010 these mines alone should have earned the state £1.07 billion, yet only £23 million ended up in the exchequer.
One well-connected Harare businessman gave me an insight into Zanu’s tactics. He is having to dress in party regalia to attend rallies five times a week and lasting several hours at a time as the election looms, a legacy of Mugabe’s revolutionary past.
‘They call Tsvangirai every name going and then we must sing songs and shout slogans,’ he said. ‘They check names and if you don’t go or the next day don’t know the latest slogan you are in trouble.’
Yet after 33 years of Marxism, murder and mayhem, Mugabe might be undone by one of his few successes: the creation of perhaps Africa’s finest education system.
‘I can’t tell you how boring these rallies are,’ the source said. ‘Many of us there have degrees and these people shouting at us are not well educated. I sit there checking my Blackberry, trying to do business.’ Daily Mail