By Gift Phiri
HARARE – There are shocking claims that seven large containers, allegedly carrying materials which the opposition says is meant to manipulate and rig the crucial 2018 national elections, are on their way to Zimbabwe from Israel.
A confidential shipping memo that the Daily News has seen indicates that the seven containers are already at the South African Port of Durban, having been dispatched from Herzlia, Israel in January.
The shipments apparently stem from an alleged surreptitious agreement signed last year by the Zimbabwe Registrar General’s office and Nikuv International, amid fresh fears that the materials are meant be used to fix the crucial 2018 vote which President Robert Mugabe is unlikely to take part in due to advanced age.
Despite determined attempts by the Daily News to solicit a comment from Nikuv this week, the company had by last night not commented on the consignment, its alleged involvement, the contents of the shipment and the delivery route.
The Daily News’s quest for answers from Nikuv included e-mailed questions.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson said: “The shipments point to some seedling which is taking place ahead of the next election whenever it is going to be held. Unfortunately, Nikuv and its seedling have dismally failed to rig the economy which is on a free fall.”
Tobaiwa Mudede, Zimbabwe’s Registrar General, also flatly declined to comment on the contraband when the Daily News asked him about this during the Defence and Home Affairs parliamentary portfolio committee fact-finding visit to Makombe Building in Harare, and KG VI offices three days ago.
An angry Mudede went on to kick out the Daily News crew from the function after being questioned about the shipment.
Documents seen by the Daily News show that the suspicious consignment is being handled by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC).
Adding fuel to the claims is the fact that the shipments themselves are protected by intense security protocol, which means specifics like routes, transportation method, quantities and schedules remain top secret.
The seven large containers were dispatched from Herzlia, Israel, according to the information on the shipping memos. Six of these containers measure 40 feet and are registered under the Bill of Lading Code MSCUJN329741, with one more container, also measuring 40 feet, shipped under the Bill of Lading Code MSCUJN329808.
The MSC Logistics (Pvt) Ltd, the Durban-based import controller and co-regulator of the transfers, told the Daily News that rules restricted it from disclosing such information to the public, although it did confirm that “final destination for both bills are Harare”.
The consignment was apparently dispatched via Japan in January and has been stuck at the Durban harbour following the botching of the logistical arrangement, a situation that might have led to the exposure of the clandestine shipment as well as its intended destination.
The information at hand shows that the shipment left Yokohama, Japan, on January 6, 2014, through the route or ship called MSC KRITTIKA/VOYAGE HI350A.
However, a problem developed after the Nikuv containers reached Durban Port and the clearing agent tried to process their transportation to Harare.
It was apparently discovered that the name and address of the recipient was likely to attract attention and blow the lid on the clandestine shipment because the recipient was registered as Nikuv International Project Ltd, Harare, Zimbabwe.
The recipient was then apparently changed to Registrar General, Harare, at the end of February.
But by last Friday, the containers were still stuck at Durban Port.
Reliable sources who chose to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation say there are apparently worries on the part of both Nikuv and the RG’s office that attempting to transport the containers now could lead to the discovery of the “sinister contents.”
MSC, the import controller, said it was awaiting further instructions from Nikuv in Israel, which also refused to comment on the contents of the seven containers.
A Durban-based official privy to the containers saga said: “There are materials used for elections in all those containers as well as IT equipment meant for the same purpose. That is why they are stuck here because the whole process was supposed to be carried out very secretly to avoid detection of the contents.” Daily News