Zimbabwe Elections
 ” credit=”Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

In February, speaking at his birthday, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe described his leadership as a “divine task,” and his certain victory at the then-upcoming presidential poll as God’s choice.

His prophecy would be fulfilled on July 31, when the 89-year-old Mugabe, Africa’s longest-serving president, would claim victory with 61 percent of the vote, ahead of Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change.

But documents from Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization obtained by 100Reporters suggest that the success of Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party reflected direct intervention by the Chinese Communist Party, financial support topping $1 billion in diamonds and revenues from three companies and two African presidents, armed intimidation by security forces and vote rigging en masse.

The good Lord had less to do with it.

The Landscape

As the presidential election approached, both candidates signaled their intention to end the power-sharing arrangement of the last five years. Though the MDC itself had not escaped the taint of local corruption, Tsvangirai had campaigned on pledges to clean up the nation’s diamond sector. He openly criticized the secrecy surrounding Zimbabwe’s mining agreements with China and with a handful of companies.

Revenue related to the diamond trade, if reported properly, could provide decent jobs for 100,000 Zimbabweans, he said, instead of lining the pockets of a military and political elite and financing what the nonprofit group Global Witness had called a “parallel government.”

For his part, Mugabe likened Tsvangirai to a cowardly dog, saying his rival sought to hand over the country’s wealth to white foreigners.

One intelligence assessment suggested that a ZANU victory would require massive effort, noting that the party had lost 10 percent of its members since 2008. Votes for Mugabe, the service estimated, would run 670,000, while “hostile votes” could reach one million.

“The joke is that we don’t know anyone alive who votes for ZANU,” said a Zimbabwean political activist now based in South Africa, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This system is a fiction: the enemy is a fiction, the success is a fiction, the idea of voting is a fiction.”

The Strategy

To rig the elections and secure 50 percent of the vote, ZANU sought the assistance of Nikuv International Projects Ltd. – an Israeli company specializing in large technology projects (such as passports and registries), paying the company $13 million, the documents said. Operating in countries like Angola, Zambia, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe, the company was selected by Daniel Nhepera, internal director of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), and two retired directors (H. Muchena and S. Nyunango), based on the company’s “excellent record from 2002,” one document states.

Previous caches of Nikuv’s website, since taken down from the Internet, reveal the company’s past successes in Zimbabwe included population registration, elections (such as presidential, parliamentary, senatorial and local government), identity cards and passports.

Voters queue to cast their votes in Zimbabwe elections in Mbare, Harare on election day, July 31, 2013.
Voters queue to cast their votes in Zimbabwe elections in Mbare, Harare on election day, July 31, 2013.” credit=”AP

The strategy outlined in Zimbabwean intelligence documents called for the company to “secure votes” by working tightly with Zimbabwe’s feared CIO and armed youth, which used intimidation and forced relocation of voters. The strategy called for delaying and obstructing voter registration in areas likely to favor the opposition.

Specific steps included:

  • Registering less than ten real voters on “any given day with direct command from Nikuv” and the Party;
  • Populating the voters’ roll before, and during, elections to counter unfavorable voting outcomes;
  • Parallel registration and mobilization for “statistical maneuvering, depopulation and population of hostile constituencies,” in coordination with the Registrar’s Office and an official of the Chinese Communist Party identified in the documents as Chung Huwao;
  • Obstructing registration in the 18-35 age brackets, and over-registering voters in the 35-90 age brackets;
  • Using housing schemes to “re-orient beneficiaries” and log them on the voting roll;
  • Deliberately congesting the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission registration by “security personnel and trusted lieutenants to delay the process as advised by Nikuv.”

Nikuv’s head office acknowledged interview requests but did not respond to allegations that it had played a role in vote rigging.

The Chinese Role

The Chinese laid out a strategy of tying land rights in the perimeter of urban areas to card-carrying membership in Mugabe’s ruling party, according to an intelligence agency document.  “[A]bsolute neutralization of the enemy is recommended when necessary,” the document noted. “Hostile votes will lead to loss of land entitlement.”

According to the CIO documents, Mugabe’s benefactors in the Chinese Communist Party also provided and installed short wave jammers to disrupt “enemy radio stations domiciled in hostile areas” and updated old jamming equipment, particularly for use in rural areas. Traditional leaders in rural areas were seen as allies. Insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that deals were cut with traditional leaders to facilitate “assisted” voting.

The strategy called for security forces to deploy thousands of armed young men “ward by ward,” one document said.  In addition to the army–kept on standby–over 35,000 youth were trained and deployed to areas expected to vote against the president. Youth, one intelligence organization document stated, must be armed with “assault rifles to aid mobilization and stem resistance,” coordinated by provincial leaders. The documents show deployment of youth to specific provinces under military leaders described as provincial coordinators.

“Inkomo Barracks is currently serving a total of 3,743 recruits going through mobilization and re-orientation classes, and they will be ready for deployment three days ahead of ELECTIONS” (emphasis in original), reported one intelligence agency document, entitled, “Reconnaissance-Operation Return to ZANU-PF.”

The Chinese Communist Party did not respond to requests for comment sent via fax and email. The Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe also did not respond to requests for comment.

The Cost of Hanging On

The documents show that ZANU commandeered at least $850 million in diamond and diamond-related revenues to finance the rigged elections, with a further $177 million coming from the presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea, among other sources.

One document cites three companies as providing diamond revenue for the reelection effort.

The first company named was Anjin – a joint venture between China’s Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company (AFECC) and Matt Bronze Pvt. Ltd., a shell company whose beneficial owners are believed to include the Zimbabwe Defense Industries.

The second company was Mbada – a joint venture between New Reclamation (through its parent company, Grandwell Holdings), and the state-owned Zimbabwean Minerals Development Corporation (ZMDC).  Mbada’s president is Robert Mhlanga, a former air vice-marshall in the Zimbabwe Air Force, who reportedly served as Mugabe’s personal helicopter pilot. Mhlanga has denied serving as Mugabe’s pilot.

The third company was identified as China International Fund (CIF), a Hong Kong-based firm closely associated with China Sonangol, whose shareholders include Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol. The documents shed new light on the roles of Sam Pa and Veronica Fung, believed to central figures at the China International Fund, in delivering everything from tee shirts and campaign regalia to diamonds and cash.

The China International Fund’s diamond entity in Zimbabwe is known as Sino Zimbabwe Development Pvt. Ltd., which company officials had previously described as dormant. In a letter to Global Witness in 2012, China International Fund also described Pa as merely an advisor to the company, and they denied financing the CIO.

“While China International Fund has provided money to the government of Zimbabwe it has done so for legitimate business reasons such as the payment of taxes, licence fees etc.,” the company claimed in its letter. “It is a commercial enterprise and governments are free to deploy monies they receive as they deem appropriate.”

But the Zimbabwe intelligence documents name Pa as chairman of Sino Zimbabwe, and describe a more intimate role in maintaining Mugabe’s hold on power.

Neither AFECC nor the China International Fund responded to interview requests or to an emailed list of detailed questions about their alleged involvement in the Zimbabwean elections. The Anjin joint venture’s local Zimbabwean counterpart, Munyaradzi Muchacha, could not be reached through cellphone numbers provided by Zimbabwe’s mining authority, the ZMDC. After being informed the numbers did not work, the ZMDC declined to provide further contact details on the on the company including physical address, fax numbers and other local contact information.

China Sonangol declined an interview request for this story, saying, “Neither we nor our company (and group) are involved in the matters set out in your email and therefore any interview is totally irrelevant.”

New Reclamation referred 100Reporters to attorneys representing New Reclamation and Mbada, who categorically denied any involvement in financing the election campaign and questioned the authenticity of the documents, a number of which were previously cited by the British Mail on Sunday.

100Reporters obtained the documents independently from two sources, and is releasing their contents in full here for the first time.

Arming Deals

The CIO documents provide a precise breakdown of at least $1 billion in diamond-related revenue derived from the three companies, including specific names, dates, and forms of benefit.

The documents name Tshinga Dube, a retired army colonel and head of the Zimbabwean Defense Industries (ZDI), as responsible for securing resources from Anjin for “Special Projects” ahead of the election. Along with Mbada, these included $800 million for “mobilization” and “transport” for the election. In addition, nine transactions that appear in just one daily update from the Central Intelligence Organization show the government received $58 million in cash, and almost 36,800 carats in diamonds, equivalent to $2.2 million if sold at a minimum price of $60 per carat.

A Zimbabwe intelligence report covering some transactions in May disclosed:

  • $41 million check from China Sonangol, “guaranteed by Mr. Pa” for “Special Interest Projects” on May 4;
  • 12,000 carats delivered by Veronica Fung and Col. Muchena to 88 Queensway on May 10, the China International Fund’s headquarters, according to the company’s website;
  • 4,000 carats delivered to Angolan Gen. Kopelipa Dias, guaranteed by China Sonangol and Sam Pa on May 16, among other payments.

Gen. “Kopelipa” Dias Júnior is one of only two ministers of state in Angola, and head of the president’s personal intelligence bureau, said Rafael Marques de Moraes, an Angolan investigative reporter and human rights activist. In power, Kopelipa is second only to the president, said Marques de Moraes.

Kopelipa has reportedly been responsible for Angola’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure deals with China.  He is sometimes called “o chefe do boss,” the boss’s boss, according to the London-based business intelligence newsletter, Africa Confidential.

Attempts to contact Kopelipa in requests detailing allegations through official fax numbers of the Angolan State Presidency, proved unsuccessful.

CIO documents suggest that Sino Zim representatives were not the only individuals or entities who transferred diamonds from Zimbabwe to Angola’s Kopelipa.

They describe Mbada as providing:

  • $12 million to Zimbabwe’s ‘Special Interests’;
  •  16,000 carats to Gen Kopelipa Dias on May 11 via Chinese military officials Cheng Qins and Zhang Shibin. The two are also reportedly beneficial owners of Grandwell Holdings, Mbada’s partner;
  • 1,000 carats delivered to a source, allegedly on behalf of an unnamed sheikh in Dubai.


Presidential elections, Harare, Zimbabwe - 31 Jul 2013
 ” credit=”Rex Features / AP Images

All the President’s Men

As Mugabe and his ruling party laid the groundwork for a sweeping election victory, election watchers considered one body decisive in conferring legitimacy on the results: the 15-nation South African Development Community (SADC), an independent regional organization.

According to a Zimbabwean intelligence document, the ruling party made sure to cultivate friends in the SADC. It set aside $1 billion of its $3 billion election budget for the SADC, labeling it “regional diplomacy.”

The CIO documents did not specify whether funding would go directly to leaders of its member states or to the SADC as an organization. The generosity was aimed at insuring Zimbabwe’s ascension to “SADC chair,” under the umbrella of reviving old “liberation movements to drum up support for poll credibility before, during and after elections,’ one document said.

Within days of Mugabe’s election victory, the SADC publicly embraced the results, brushing aside allegations of voter disenfranchisement and fraud. The Zimbabwean Election Commission, for example, had reported that more than 300,000 voters had been turned away from the polls, and that the military had interfered with voting by 200,000 citizens in rural areas. The MDC claimed to have found 838,000 entries for voters sharing the same name, address and date of birth, but with different ID numbers, along with 350,000 voters over the age of 85 and 109,000 over the age of 100.

But the SADC’s endorsement came swiftly, and opened the way for the European Union to free Zimbabwe–and diamond companies who would purchase the country’s gems–from economic sanctions.

Along with the endorsement, Zimbabwe assumed chairmanship of the SADC, a move that the body’s outgoing executive secretary, Tomaz Salomão, attributed to the “alphabetical roster for the chairmanship.”

A spokesperson for the SADC declined to address questions about the alleged donation.  “In our line of duty it would be unprofessional to engage in a discussion of suppositions, hypothesis, or allegations which might prove to be based on rumors, concoctions or innuendo,” the spokesman, Charles Mubita told 100Reporters. Without access to the original documents, Mubita said, “we will have difficulties to engage you on this.”

Henry Chimunthu Banda, head of the SADC’s newly launched Election Observation Mission, said that smooth elections were important for business. “Elections confer legitimacy on the governments and this ensures peace and stability which are necessary for the economic development of our countries.”

Stakes and Stakeholders

On June 1, at closed-door workshop in Johannesburg focusing on the Kimberly Process, the man known as the ‘diamond whistleblower’ – Edward Chindori-Chininga, chair of the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Energy, presented a talk on the Zimbabwean diamond industry.

Later, Chindori-Chininga, the former Minister of Mines and a senior ZANU legislator, approached 100Reporters. He claimed that his investigations into the diamond companies, including summoning uncooperative companies like Mbada to Parliament, signified the end of his career in ZANU, and possibly his life.

Just over two weeks later, in mid-June, Chindori-Chininga was killed in a car crash. His family cried foul.

A document seen by 100Reporters and allegedly authored by the CIO in May, lists Chindori-Chininga as one of six ZANU officials “that must be STOPPED from representing the party.” Chindori-Chininga’s parting words were to look out for the cracks in the walls of the regime. “They get bigger,” he said, “as the stakes go up.

“Sometimes, they go straight through the heart.”

Khadija Sharife

Khadija Sharife

Based in South Africa, award-winning investigative journalist Khadija Sharife is a senior editor for Africa at the Overseas Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. With a focus on global illicit financial flows, political economy, and environmental predation, Khadija has contributed to investigations about illegal logging in Madagascar, grand corruption in Angola and commodity traders fueling arms trafficking in Côte d’Ivoire. She is the former director of Platform for the Protection of Whistleblowers and is a board member of Finance Uncovered. Khadija previously led an African chapter of the EU’s Environmental Justice Liability and Trade project, overseeing research, policy, and investigation into ecological trade and corruption fueling conflict. She contributed to the book “Tax Us If You Can: Why Africa Should Stand Up for Tax Justice.” Khadija has a Master of Laws degree and is a 2021 Yale Poynter Fellow in Journalism.