By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
28 March 2014
Nikuv International Projects, an Israeli company largely suspected to have assisted ZANU PF to rig the disputed 2013 elections, has resurfaced, this time around operating from the army headquarters in Harare, a leading newspaper has claimed.
The security company, which claims to be specializing in population registration, elections and agriculture closed its Avondale office last year. This followed reports that it had manipulated the polls in favour of President Mugabe’s party. But according to the Zimbabwe Independent, which broke the story then, Nikuv is back in the fold and with indications that it is ‘consolidating its position in government.’
The newspaper said the Israeli outfit has now taken over the production of passports at the KGVI barracks production center. About 30 officials from the Registrar General’s office have already relocated from the Makombe Building to the new center, which will soon be commissioned by Mugabe.
It is believed that under this latest contract Nikuv will produce and print the latest and sophisticated passports. The company will also install high-tech digitalized fingerprint equipment, among other things. Nikuv officials are paid by the state, sources say.
Ahead of July 31st polls, reports said Nikuv was heavily involved in the electoral process and was operating from both its Avondale office and Makombe Building. However, since reports about the Israeli outfit emerged last year, Nikuv officials have steadfastly refused to shed light on the company’s role in the country.
Harare-based SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa, said while many people don’t know what Nikuv does exactly its notoriety has added to the local slang. He said it is common to hear someone saying: ‘I have been Nikuved’ meaning ‘I have been cheated.’
He added: ‘The name Nikuv is subject of ridicule here. The company has a very bad image here and yet at the same time nobody really knows what it does. It’s all rumors but without official confirmation.’
Muchemwa said so secretive are the company’s operations that even some senior government officials are still in the dark. He said suspicion is rife that only Mugabe and his close lieutenants have the complete picture.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Nikuv is also involved in Malawi, raising fears that the May elections will be manipulated in favor of President Joyce Banda. The fears are compounded by the fact that the Malawian Electoral Commission has already hired the discredited Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to provide both equipment and the expertise.