By Dr. William Mpofu | THAT the Zimbabwean presidential election of 2018 was stolen to consolidate the political gains of the military coup of 2017 that ended the rule of the late Robert Mugabe is known by many Zimbabweans, including children.
What is neither known nor understood even by scholars and journalists is how the election was stolen and the nature of the system that conducted the spectacular theft. Even more unknown is that the popular opposition presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, in veracity, actually scored a staggering 66% of the vote, while the incumbent beneficiary of the coup, Emmerson Mnangagwa, trailed far behind with 33%.
In his new book, Excelgate: How Zimbabwe’s 2018 Presidential Election Was Stolen, Professor Jonathan Moyo fleshes out the anatomy of electoral fraud and forces that were deployed by the Joint Operations Command (Joc) using state institutions and individuals that worked in its political captivity and command.
At the pinnacle of the spectacular election rigging process, the Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) turned the National Command Centre in Harare, a verification and announcement of results site, into a “giant polling station” where a combination of soldiers and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) details, “in excess of twenty” went on “punching in what was identified as V11 data into an excel spreadsheet for close to two days” in a daring violation of electoral laws of the country.
In that way, the Zimbabwean constitution was violated, the country robbed of its clear political choice and democracy negated, as military rule was consolidated and fortified.
The durable observation that Moyo makes is that “although Zimbabweans believe that election rigging is widespread, their belief is not matched by the necessary vigilance to checkmate the rigging.”
It is a Zimbabwean historical and political tragedy that “there is little regard in the body politic for the dictum that an election is a rule-bound political process which is a legal event.”
Zec would not have led such a brazen theft of the election if Zimbabweans, especially opposition political leaders and their lawyers, and civil society, understood the baptismal truth that elections are not “just politics”, but also legal events that require not only constitutions but then again vigilant practices of constitutionalism.
In 2013, Zimbabwe got a new democratic constitution without constitutionalism as a national political culture, and this was all because of the native colonialist regime of Zanu PF that took over the country from Rhodesian settler colonialism, I observe.
As I write, Zimbabwe is under the rule of an illegal and therefore illegitimate military outfit that wears the false garb of a democratically elected government, led as a head of state by an authoritarian and corrupt election loser.
The authority of Moyo
Not all writers of books are authors. Being an author is a positionality that demands some authority.
Excelgate published by SAPES Books confirms Moyo as an author of formidable authority who enjoys access to impeccable sources of intimate inside information about the system in Zimbabwe.
Not all journalists and scholars would have had a senior CIO detail who operates from the “engine rooms” of Joc calling them in the depths of the night disclosing that there was turmoil and tenacity in the security sector because the untainted results in the Zec server indicate that Chamisa had garnered 66% of the vote against Mnangagwa’s pathetic 33%.
And it is now everybody’s guess why Joc has vigorously carried out operations to split, divide and kill the MDC Alliance and to erode Chamisa’s political solidity. Some Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) diplomats that have their own intelligence contacts and sources also called to inform Moyo that indeed Mnangagwa had lost the election hands down.
From right inside Zec, in the “strictest of confidence”, some “technical staff” and “two commissioners” separately communicated to Moyo that the indelible statistics in the server that the regime was forced to damage and hide indicated that Mnangagwa had been trounced by Chamisa, and that “the system” was desperately deploying a “Plan B” to manufacture electoral “victory” for the humiliated incumbent.
Over and above the authoritative confidential sources of inside information that Moyo has, he also utilises his methodological craftsmanship as a trained and experienced social scientist to dissect court records, statutory instruments, documents, the Electoral Act itself, the 2018 Zec Elections Manual and other legal and academic literature to drive home a telling scientific case.
And that is a case that, in its robustness, can pass any legal, academic and ethical test anytime.
Besides being a student of politics, especially electoral politics, who published in 1992 the book Voting For Democracy: A Study of Electoral Politics in Zimbabwe, Moyo has been a deep insider into the political and electoral workings of Zanu PF. He has been immersed in Zanu PF as a government minister, deputy information secretary of the ruling party, “election strategist,” parliamentary candidate for Tsholotsho constituency and author of a number of Zanu PF election manifestos.
He is the scholar and politician that can both be accused of having tried and failed to reform or destroy Zanu PF from inside or one who actually almost recovered Zanu PF from certain death by giving it some intellectual oxygen, bandaging a dying snake, to be metaphoric.
For that reason, Moyo’s analytical and critical disclosures on electoral fraud and force, and the Zanu PF “system” cannot only be trusted, but they can also be treasured by those who wish to know, especially those that also wish to do something about the native colonisation of Zimbabwe by a politico-military system that has turned the country into a skunk of the world.
His monograph is the most systematic study and incisive commentary on a presidential election that Zimbabwe has ever seen.
Further, Moyo as one of the “criminals around the President” that were supposed to be killed during the military coup of November 2017, but were rescued by some securocratic “angels”, should have enough experience, knowledge, anger and emotional stamina to spill to the world the proverbial beans and help efforts to end the native colonisation of Zimbabwe by a murderous and corrupt system.
Excelgate is written by an author that has deep experience and knowledge of the dark entrails inside the belly of the Zanu PF beast.
As represented by Excelgate, Moyo might as well be the Machiavelli of Zimbabwe that had no prince to listen to him and utilise his reformist, if not revolutionary, insights.
Many Zimbabweans now silently wish that Grace Mugabe and the G40 political outfit which Moyo was part of had succeeded in their own political designs, stratagems that looked like a coup that was not military, and maybe Zimbabwe as a country would have fallen where her pieces could be picked up.
The military coup that elevated Mnangagwa to power has sunk the polity of the country into a bottomless abyss and sentenced the economy into a monopoly of Mnangagwa, his family, friends, cronies and some international black marketeers.
Zimbabwe is under self-evident and brazen state capture. The capture is there for all to see – primitive accumulation is difficult to hide. Mnangagwa, his family and cronies are greedily grabbing opportunities and looting with reckless abandon. It is their turn to eat, so they say.
But they are leaving too much evidence behind. Even for non-forensic people like most of us, we can see their footprints. Even Mnangagwa’s coup partners are alarmed and complaining about the looting.
My multiple readings of Excelgate have convinced me, and would convince any honest reader, that Moyo has deployed his authority to show what Dr Ibbo Mandaza, another former Zanu PF insider, notes as the “bare details” of how “Zanu PF has been able to rig elections since 1985 with considerable success.”
Even the least discerning reader would be left in no doubt that “elections in Zimbabwe, away from being vehicles of democracy, are now means of legitimising an essentially illegitimate and evil regime.
As I have continued to argue, Zimbabwe is now a full-blown native colony that boasts of all the evils of colonialism except that it is black natives of Zimbabwe that are the present colonisers.
Under Mnangagwa and the securocrats behind him, Zimbabweans now experience the same political and economic conditions that forced some young people in Rhodesia to wage an armed struggle against settler colonialism.
In their own words and deeds
One of the epistemic strengths of Excelgate as a book is in how Moyo methodically resists the temptation to issue a litany of bitter and windy allegations against a people and a system that wanted him dead.
Those who employed fraud and force to steal the 2018 presidential election severally speak for themselves in the book as Moyo highlights their own authentic words and deeds.
When information of Chamisa’s victory against Mnangagwa sent the securocrats into panic and frenzy, the Zec chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba, sent a WhatsApp message to some close friends of hers in the system promising a solution:
“They don’t have to agree. We will announce based on our own V11. We don’t need any party’s V11. It’s just courtesy to ask them to verify. Agree or not we announce.”
Here was the leader of Zec disclosing the juice about an invented Zec V11 that had nothing to do with the actual votes cast by Zimbabweans.
Chigumba’s revealing message landed with some worried diplomats and other troubled observers that shared the ominous details with their own networks.
Excelgate feeds fat from the verbatim words of the perpetrators of electoral fraud and force.
In the comfort of Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria, before the wedding festivities of his son, Zimbabwean Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who was recently blocked by the High Court from extending his tenure, received a copy of the Constitutional Court petition challenging the election process and results.
After scanning the application, Malaba exclaimed to the judicial officer who gave him the copy: “Is that all ?” laughing and shaking his head as he rejoiced and celebrated with excited body language, “Ok, akula lutho la,” meaning in Ndebele that there was no case and he was going to have Chamisa’s application dismissed well before the case had been heard on its merits.
Just like Chigumba, Malaba did not know that there were other interested eyes and ears around. Malaba is the same chief justice who “sitting alone in the chambers,” without hearing from Mugabe, passed the alarming judgement on 21 November 2017 that Mugabe had “resigned freely and voluntarily” from his post as the President of Zimbabwe, which was a monumental falsehood.
Malaba is the chief justice that several times in the presence of Moyo “between March 2013 and December 2014” Mnangagwa called “munhu wangu uyo,” meaning in Shona “that is my guy”.
True to being Mnangagwa’s personal person, Malaba was to unjustly frustrate and block Chamisa’s subpoena to have the Zec server that contained the correct and true results of the presidential election examined.
Malaba much ridiculously affirmed the brazenly false Zec claim, under oath, that it had no server at all yet the existence of the server was knowledge in the public domain.
In his own response to Chamisa’s court challenge, Mnangagwa, in clear and advised words, under oath, confirmed the existence of the Zec server and only made the allegation that the server had been hacked by some enemies of Zimbabweans and therefore the results therein could not be justiciable.
In the grand cover-up for Mnangagwa, Malaba had to, “fully dressed” in robs, tell the falsehood that election results in Zimbabwe are by law supposed to be transmitted “wholly manual”, which was to assist Zec hide the server.
Like Mnangagwa who accidentally or unwittingly confirmed the existence of the server, Zec commissioner Qhubani Moyo, in frantic communication with the agitated Zimbabwean independent media, confirmed that there were results that were received through the server. What Qhubani Moyo, for obvious reasons, could not say was why the presidential results stored in the server could not be made public.
While the Mnagagwa regime publicly denied knowledge and responsibility for the shooting to death of six unarmed civilians that were protesting the delay in the announcement of election results, Excelgate proves otherwise.
Against the public denials of army commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda and Tactical Commander Anselem Sanyatwe, and their allegations that it is opposition political militants that shot and killed six civilians and critically injured 35 others, Moyo provides concrete evidence that the Harare massacre was a pre-meditated Maoist military and police tactic to kill a few Zimbabweans in order to scare many of them away from protesting against the electoral fraud in Harare.
Moyo documents black and white evidence of communication in letters and phone calls involving police superintendents, a Commissioner-General of Police, Minister of Home Affairs Obert Mpofu, retired army commander General Constantine Chiwenga and Mnangagwa that proves that the Harare massacre was pre-meditated and planned well before the elections as a strategy to prevent Zimbabweans from defending their vote in the streets.
The Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and military intelligence, from their researches and surveys, had warned the regime of Chamisa’s impending electoral victory and advised of the need for “Plan B” to manufacture electoral victory for Mnangagwa and consolidate the political gains of the military coup.
Alongside the fraud at the Zec National Command Centre, military force in the shape of live bullets was deployed in the streets of Harare to fortify the theft of the 2018 presidential election in Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa gave the nod to the deployment of the detachment of the army, a Presidential Guard unit, and its use of live ammunition on civilians some of whom were bystanders and street hawkers that were not part of the protest.
Retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje, a former soldier and a leader of the Zanu PF commissariat had, well before the elections, warned that the system was prepared to commit atrocities to ensure electoral victory. Rugeje was a key player in the coup.
How the election was stolen
Soon after it emerged that Mnangagwa had lost, as shown in the correct and true results of the election in the Zec server that was mirrored in servers of the CIO, the military intelligence, and seen by army and intelligence details embedded in Zec, the ominous “Plan B” had to be urgently set afoot.
First, Zec technicians that are seconded from the army and the intelligence tried to “rape” the server to alter the results in favour of Mnangagwa, but the impregnable American-made gadget’s software and hardware resisted until it was damaged. With military and intelligence determination, the system decided that the server be hidden and its existence officially denied.
An excel spreadsheet was brought in as an alternative that would allow the grand cooking of results. For this to work, the “command element” of the system had to deploy military and intelligence activity with the gravitas of “by all means necessary” deportment.
Spectacularly and illegally, a “different route and different destination” for the presidential election results from all the polling stations in the country were quickly invented.
The V11s, polling station return forms, and the V23s, ward centre return forms for the presidential election, which must be collated and verified at constituency centres, were criminally and illegally taken to the Zec National Command Centre in Harare.
Either by “accident or welcome mischief by vigilant staffers” Zec documents this electoral fraud in its own published report: “The results were taken to the National Command Centre physically by the District Elections Officers where they were captured and collated on a results collation template at the National Collation Centre.”
By law the results should have been collated at the 210 constituency centres of the country and entered into V23B forms before they are forwarded to 10 provincial command centres where they were to be further collated into V23C forms.
The invention of a different route and destination for the presidential results alone, leaving the parliamentary results to follow the legal route, was a violation of Section 38 of the Electoral Act that legislates harmonised presidential and parliamentary elections.
Section 37 Chapter 4 of the Electoral Act and Section 110 Chapter 3 of the same Act were also violated with contempt and impunity.
The stubborn question is: Why was the system driven to desperation and forced to break the law? The answer is found in the rigging process that took place in the Zec Command Centre in Harare, “the process involved a group of people in excess of twenty, punching in what was identified as V11 data into an excel spreadsheet. For close to two days that process continued.”
These people were a mixture of CIO, military intelligence and some Zec officials seconded from the army. They were in all actuality voting on behalf of Zimbabweans against their will and choice, turning the Zec Command Centre from a verification and announcement of election results site into what Moyo correctly calls a “giant polling station” that manufactured new results in favour of Mnangagwa.
That was Excelgate in full flight. Excelgate unfolded as the correct and true presidential election results were frozen in the server that was now damaged, hidden and officially denied by Zec.
Chamisa’s agents, Morgen Komichi and Jameson Timba, who later rightly protested the fraud, had sat in the room for the two days as spooks right before their eyes pretended to be verifying results when they were actually voting.
“Our own V11” that Chigumba messaged about to her friends was an object of fraud as only V23D forms are generated at the National Command Centre, not V11s. Zec officials had no legal business punching in V11 data into an excel spreadsheet at the National Command Centre that actually became a huge crime scene.
A tributary to the Excelgate in the Zec National Command Centre was in the shape of some spooky and fraudulent activities that happened in the constituencies. The European Election Observer Mission, for instance, found in Makoni North Constituency some Zec officials that Moyo unmasks as having been soldiers, military intelligence and the CIO pretending to be civilians, filling in V11 forms alone after polling agents had left two days earlier.
These spooky Zec officials were also voting. Their explanation to the EU team was a sheepish argument that the forms were previously not available. No doubt there were other constituencies besides Makoni North where Zec was used by Joc to allow ghost voters to vote for Mnangagwa long after the voting process had ended.
Excelgate illustrates it clearly that Mnangagwa is largely an illegitimate beneficiary of a military coup that was voted into power by the army, intelligence and some other hired spooks, not the Zimbabwean populace.
By using his position as chief justice to frustrate and block Chamisa’s legal applications, Malaba truly lived up to his role as Mnangagwa’s point man and a regime enabler that enabled and endorsed electoral fraud, theft and force. Excelgate makes it clear exactly why Mnangagwa would so desperately wish to retain Malaba as chief justice beyond his legal age limit and expiry of tenure.
Malaba’s tenure ended on 15 May when he turned 70. Mnangagwa amended the constitution and changed the law to extend it by five years to 75. Civil society actors challenged that in court and the High Court ruled against Malaba, but he is still fighting to continue in office. This confirms that Malaba is the fulcrum – that word popularised by Advocate Thabani Mpofu during Chamisa’s electoral petition hearing in 2018 – in Mnangagwa’s electoral strategy for 2023.
That story has been comprehensively and systematically covered for a period of about five months now by The NewsHawks.
Such a chief justice as Malaba is what Joc would want in 2023 when another presidential election is due. In his dirty work of enabling electoral fraud and force, Malaba was much unexpectedly assisted by Chamisa’s legal team that made V11s the pivot of their legal case and not the important V23Bs that are generated from constituency centres and are confirmed and signed by polling agents.
Political parties and civil society also offered no intervention or resistance to Zec’s brazen manipulation of the V forms for the purposes of electoral fraud. Once again it is, perhaps, a legitimate observation that Zanu PF and its Joc system would not be the lions that they are if Zimbabweans were not political sheep. There is an urgent need for Zimbabweans to develop some political teeth in defending their rights and not allow Zanu PF and its system to monopolise being feared.
Zanu PF and its system are not soon going to commit suicide; they need assisted suicide or mercy killing itself, metaphorically speaking.
What is the system in Zimbabwe?
Excelgate exposes not only the rigging system in Zimbabwe, but also the entire dark monstrosity that secretly runs the country outside the perimeters of the constitution.
This is an unelected secret government that is a law unto itself. This entity, Moyo observes, has all the answers to the question surrounding the issues from the Gukurahundi genocide to the disappearance of some Zimbabweans like Rashiwe Guzha, Itai Dzamara and the murder of Solomon Mujuru, among many evils and crimes that have gone for years unsolved.
It is this system, in the shape of Joc, that is peopled by securocrats and runs Zanu PF itself and the country. Many senior government and party officials in Zanu PF are in the dark on the workings of Joc that is a collective of few but powerful and secretive individuals that command assassins and are true merchants of death and destruction.
Moyo correctly notes that “it is an indictment of the post-independence political and military leadership that a colonial instrument created by the racist Rhodesian regime to brutalise freedom fighters was retained by the same liberators in independent Zimbabwe.”
Joc is a politico-security outfit that is a relic from settler colonialism and is now being used by the native colonialists in Harare. It employs colonial and dark modes of political practice in Zimbabwe.
Through Defence House, that is the head office of the Ministry of Defence, CIO, Data Recovery Centre, Chiltern Trust, Africom Zimbabwe, Zec and the Constitutional Court, Joc rigged the presidential election in 2018.
As a system, Joc gets to know the results of all elections well before civilians and some civilian officials in Zec and positions itself to change the results to suit Zanu PF. To fully understand Zanu PF’s native colonisation of Zimbabwe, one needs to understand the nature and workings of Joc that Moyo unmasks in Excelgate.
Excelgate is a pulsating read couched in Moyo’s typical lucid prose and punchy tone. The language is simple without being simplistic.
The book, from the first to the last page, is a revelation that supplies observations, arguments and conclusions about Zimbabwe that Zimbabweans, Africans and other citizens of the world urgently need to engage with on Zimbabwe and Africa.
The book is also readable as a political education treatise that politicians, political parties and their supporters, opponents and voters are the poorer without reading. Those that are eventually going to successfully change the political system in Zimbabwe would have to consult Excelgate as one of the authoritative sources of what is wrong with Zimbabwe and needs to be fixed.
Any African or world mediation into the Zimbabwean political and economic crisis will benefit richly from Moyo’s offerings in Excelgate. Excelgate is over and above its multiple qualities an infuriating book that is not for the faint-hearted in its contents that graphically illustrate the anatomy of political fraud and force in Zimbabwe.
About the writer: Dr William J. Mpofu is a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He is also a senior researcher at Good Governance Africa in South Africa.