Global Witness today called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to fully investigate claims that Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party is attempting to rig the country's elections, due to be held on Wednesday.
The watchdog warned that there is strong evidence to suggest that ZANU PF has secured large funds from the country's lucrative diamond mines which it may now be spending on undemocratic tactics such as tampering with the electoral roll.
Whilst the run-up to the election has been largely peaceful, there remain serious concerns that the vote will be flawed.
Much needed reforms set out in the constitution have not been undertaken, including an overhaul of Zimbabwe's partisan security sector, and there has been a growing crackdown on civil society organisations and human rights defenders.
There have also been allegations by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that Israeli firm Nikuv, contracted by the government of Zimbabwe, is working with the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to tamper with the electoral roll.
Nikuv has denied the allegations. The MDC says Nikuv is not being paid via the public purse, raising questions about how the contract is being funded. Claims have also been made in the press linking diamond finance to tactics designed to weight the poll in ZANU's favour. (1)
"Global Witness has serious concerns that diamond money could influence the outcome of Zimbabwe's elections," said Senior Campaigner Emily Armistead.
"Having secured diamond revenues as a source of off-budget funding, we believe ZANU PF could be using the cash to ensure the election goes its way."
Global Witness has exposed links between some of the mining companies operating in the diamond-rich Marange region of Zimbabwe, and members of the military and other ZANU insiders.
Our research also revealed that a Hong Kong-based businessman, Sam Pa, had donated $100 million to the CIO, Zimbabwe's feared secret police, in exchange for diamonds and other business opportunities in the country.
As guarantor of Zimbabwe's Global Political Agreement, SADC has major role to play in deciding whether Zimbabwe's elections are viewed as credible by the international community.
However Global Witness is concerned over indications that the regional body may be willing to lower the bar on how 'credible' is defined as long as widespread violence is avoided during the 2013 poll.
Global Witness has urged SADC representatives to fully investigate claims of intimidation and vote-rigging and be prepared to take necessary steps if they find evidence of wrong-doing.
"As long as there's no blood on the streets, SADC seems willing to give this election a stamp of approval.
But in doing so, it would ignore the widespread intimidation and vote-rigging which appears to have taken place already. SADC must step up to its mandate and be prepared to take a stand against ZANU PF if the vote appears flawed," said Armistead.
Results of the elections are due to be announced by August 5th.
Emily Armistead on +44 (0)20 7492 5888 or +44 (0)7885 969480 or Annie Dunnebacke on +44 (0)7912 517 172
(1) Global Witness has raised a number of 'red flags' with SADC officials relating to concerns about diamond money being used to rig the elections.
While Nikuv is working within a government department on the electoral roll, the company is not being paid by the Ministry of Finance. This raises questions about how it is being funded and the possibility that payment could be linked to diamonds revenues.
MDC-T treasurer Roy Bennett has alleged that an NGO, CEDSA, which brought a case to the Supreme Court to ensure that elections were held by July 31st, is a CIO front potentially funded by diamond money.
Allegations have been made that a deal to import grain from Zambia to Zimbabwe for distribution to voters loyal to ZANU PF was funded by Mbada Diamonds.
(2) For more detail on Global Witness concerns around Zimbabwe's elections see the Global Witness briefing: Zimbabwe's elections: intimidation, vote-rigging and diamonds.
(3) For more information about Global Witness's work on Zimbabwe, click here