New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Nikiv Shuts Down Harare Offices

AN Israeli company accused of helping rig President Robert Mugabe's re-election hastily shut down its office in Harare as controversy swirls around its role in the tainted poll.

Nikuv's office in the leafy Avondale section of Harare was closed down and company representatives were nowhere to be found this week, according to the weekly Independent newspaper.

The paper said Nikuv was a key player in Mugabe's successful plan to win re-election by stuffing ballot boxes, creating thousands of phony voter IDs and even creating polling places known only to supporters of his Zanu PF party.

The company is said to have issued fake voter registration slips that were used by Mugabe supporters to fraudulently vote, the paper said.

The 89-year-old veteran leader romped home to victory with more than 60% of the vote in the July 31 election, beating long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai by about 1 million votes.

Tsvangirai's MDC-T party filed a court motion Friday asking judges to set aside the result and order a new election. The petition cited massive fraud and intimidation.

Few give the petition any hope of success, as the judiciary is packed with Mugabe supporters who have repeatedly toed his party's line.

The petition called Nikuv's involvement in the election "worrying" and quoted government documents saying the Israeli firm has received $10 million in payments from the government.

Independent election observers say up to one million voters may have been turned away from the polls in the MDC's urban strongholds while ghost voters were allowed to vote multiple times in rural Zanu PF fiefdoms.

Pliant soldiers and national service recruits were also bussed into some areas to bolster Zanu PF's support, critics alleged.

The election has drawn condemnation from the U.S. and Britain.

African observers mostly gave it a stamp of approval, with the notable exception of Zimbabwe's neighbour Botswana, which demanded an audit of the voters roll that critics say was brazenly manipulated.

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