Diamonds ensure Mugabe is forever


Robert Mugabe delivers a speech at the launch of his party's election campaign in Harare, Zimbabwe.THE president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, used $850m of diamond money to rig the country’s elections, intelligence documents obtained by The Sunday Times reveal.

The documents, dated June 3, detail how Chinese and Zimbabwean diamond companies pumped cash into a war chest used by Mugabe to manipulate the results of the election and intimidate the population.

As Zimbabweans prepared for another five years of autocratic rule after the country’s electoral commission announced that Mugabe had won the presidential elections with 61 per cent of the vote.

The classified documents reveal how Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party received $800m from two diamond mining companies controlled by Chinese investors and senior military commanders in the Zimbabwean army, police and intelligence services. Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, allegedly gave $85m and the government of Equatorial Guinea gave $92m to the slush fund.

Zanu-PF used the money to pay an Israeli firm, which the documents name, to rig the electoral roll, according to the documents. The company requested $3bn “to secure 50 per cent of the adult vote” for Mugabe.

The documents also disclose that Zimbabwe’s intelligence service, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), spied on communications between foreign diplomats in the run up to last week’s elections. One document says that conversations between David Cameron and Jacob Zuma, the South African president, were monitored by the CIO.

The documents also accuse Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), of passing state secrets to foreign governments, putting Tsvangirai at risk of arrest.

The debate about the extent to which Mugabe rigged the elections has centred on an elusive document contained in 1,958 ring binders and weighing more than two tons – the electoral roll.

In many areas, particularly in places considered to be Zanu-PF strongholds, the number of registered voters far exceeded the adult population.

“How is this possible?” asked one political adviser with strong links to the government, before bursting into laughter. “Zanu-PF created millions of ghost voters they then used to swing the elections in their favour.”

The government’s attempts to block access to the electoral roll broke into the open in the weeks before the election when the High Court, on orders from the registrar-general, banned the publication of an investigation into these discrepancies.

Tobaiwa Mudede, the registrar and a fierce Mugabe loyalist, accused the group behind the investigation – the Research and Advocacy Unit – of trying to cause chaos.

A leaked copy of the group’s damning report states that more than 2m potential voters under the age of 30, an age group more likely to vote for the MDC, had been left off the electoral roll. The investigation also discovered that more than one million dead people had been registered, along with more than 116,000 people over the age of 100. One of those is a 135-year- old army officer.

That same electoral roll has about 900,000 duplicate names with identical addresses and dates of birth but different ID numbers. The intelligence documents reveal that Mugabe hired an Israeli company to add duplicate names, allowing Zanu-PF supporters to vote many times in different wards.

The intelligence documents show that a member of the Chinese Communist party liaised with the Middle Eastern firm and the registrar-general’s office to “neutralise hostile votes” in urban areas by under-registering young voters and over-registering older ones.

The documents also show that Zanu-PF bought the loyalty of election observers. The documents state that “… 33 per cent of the budget will cover regional diplomacy to drum up support for poll credibility before, during and after elections”.

A Chinese investor, Sam Pa, who is chairman of one of Zimbabwe’s largest diamond mining operations, provided Zanu-PF with 2m campaign T-shirts and other election regalia.

Another company, which allegedly wants to buy concessions in the diamond mining sector, provided 500 vehicles to the president’s campaign for “transport and mobilisation”, the documents state.

They also reveal the extent to which Mugabe was terrified of losing. “The state of the party at cell and ward level is compromised and under siege from the enemy,” the CIO states.

The documents show China provided Mugabe’s government with short-wave jamming equipment to shut down local radio stations deemed to be pro-MDC.

Fears are rising that Mugabe’s landslide could split the MDC, which held emergency meetings yesterday to decide how to tackle the crisis. A divided opposition would further strengthen Mugabe’s 33-year rule which, critics say, has been characterised by crippling economic mismanagement and human rights abuses.

Senior sources inside the opposition party say there is confusion among MDC leaders about how to respond to “monumental fraud”.

“We have been walking like zombies, drowning in dark shadows of pain and disbelief, hoping that this is just a nightmare where someone will wake us up in a sweat,” wrote Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the MDC, in a local newspaper yesterday.

It is this fatalism that has angered the rank and file. “The majority of the youth are ready for action. We would hit the streets but people need leadership. We’ve had no direction from above,” said one MDC activist, who refused to be named for security reasons.

Some members of the MDC’s executive want the handful of their MPs who won seats to withdraw from parliament. Others have responded with calls for civil disobedience. Another group has appealed for calm, preferring to challenge the results in court.

“We don’t want to get into a situation where there is violence, so passive resistance would be the best way to go,” said Ian Kay, an MDC MP who lost his seat.

Senior MDC advisers believe that by entering into a power-sharing agreement with Mugabe after the last election in 2008 it irrevocably damaged its credibility. “It was a big mistake. The MDC fell victim to the trappings of power and allowed Zanu-PF to regroup,” said a senior party aide.

Grassroots activists agree. “The problem is that some of these senior leaders who were born out of the union movement have been corrupted by their time in government,” said a pro-MDC human rights activist.

“They’re afraid Zanu-PF will dig up dirt on them and detain them if they call for protests.”

Roy Bennett, the MDC’s treasurer, said: “We are dealing with a regime that kills people if they go on the street. The leaders have to be cautious about what they say because they could find themselves being arrested as soon as they make any statement against the current regime.”

Now that Mugabe has a commanding majority, many fear that he will seek to amend the constitution. “He’ll try to strengthen the presidential powers that were weakened by the new constitution,” said a government adviser.

Others fear the country will slip back into the economic chaos that saw hyperinflation reach 213,000,000 per cent.

“Mugabe’s now got a licence to loot,” said Paul Collier, director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University.

The Australian /The Sunday Times