Wednesday, January 26, 2022

BDP hires controversial Israeli company ahead of general elections

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has reportedly engaged the services of a controversial Israeli company to help it retain its rule in the upcoming general elections, expected to take place in October.

A BDP central committee member has confirmed the engagement of Nikuv International Projects to help the party win the elections.

The engagement of Nikuv is a highly guarded secret in the party and according to source, not even party members are privy to the development.

It is yet unclear exactly what Nikuv’s involvement in the up-coming election will be. What is known is that the company specializes in population registration and election systems.

Nikuv has a checkered history in the region, as it was once dragged to court in Zambia on allegations of tampering with voter registration to rig polls. The same accusations were leveled against the company in Zimbabwe for helping Mugabe to rig the elections.

The company website indicates that Nikuv was formed “by a group of professionals with an accumulated experience of 45 years in the field of population registration and election systems in Israel”, adding that it was initially a subsidiary of the Formula Group, one of Israel’s largest software groups.

Nikuv has previously done business worth millions of Pula with the Botswana government. It supplied the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs with National Identity cards, passports and border gates immigration material.

It was also roped in to roll out ISPAAD, one of President Ian Khama’s government projects.
Last year, Nikuv hogged media headlines following it’s tenders with government. Subsequent, government issued.

a statement that read, “The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs would like to state for the record that Nikuv International Projects (NIP) has the following projects with the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs; being the Birth and Deaths Registration System (BDRS) and the Immigration and Citizenship System (ICS). However, it is not true that Nikuv has been awarded tenders worth more than P200 million by the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs. The actual cost for both the ICS and BDRS tenders was P80, 905 055.36”.

Nikuv has gained notoriety following allegations and is accused of election rigging in Zimbabwe and Zambia using advanced technology to manipulate the voters roll and ballot papers.

The company allegedly mostly works with intelligence organizations in the countries where it is engaged. It is feared in the case of Botswana it might be working with the DIS.

The media in Zimbabwe and Zambia have in the past reported extensively on the alleged election rigging tactics by Nikuv.

At the height of Zimbabwe elections, Eddie Cross, a Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP who has proved to be well informed on security matters in the past, told the Mail & Guardian that he had been informed by security sources that the company, Nikuv International Projects, is working on the voters roll at Defence House, the headquarters of the Zimbabwe Defence Force under the direction of Daniel Tonde Nhepera, the deputy head of the Zimbabwe’s dreaded internal security arm, the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO).

In the run-up to the disputed 2008 elections, Zimbabwean opposition parties accused the company of assisting the Zanu-PF government to manipulate the roll in favor of Robert Mugabe.

Suspicions of election-rigging were heightened when Zimbabwe’s electoral commission took five weeks to release the results of the election. The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, calculated that he had won much more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round of polling but, when results were eventually published, he was credited with 47.9 percent against Mugabe’s 43.2 percent, forcing a run-off.

Nikuv’s Zimbabwean contract appears to have been a $15-million deal signed in November 1994, reportedly to computerize the ministry of home affairs, the census office and the election system.
On its website Nikuv says that the company focuses on projects for “governmental sectors” and initiated its activities in Africa in 1994 in Nigeria. It had “since expanded its activities to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Botswana and Angola in IT and additional areas like agriculture and security”.

In Zambia, whereit was brought in to manage and computerise voter registration, the United National Independence Party (Unip) accused the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) of trying to rig the 1996 election with the company’s help. Unip eventually boycotted the poll.

The Zambian opposition also accused Nikuv of landing the contract without proper tender procedures. The process was allegedly managed by the office of Vice-President Godfrey Miyanda rather than the electoral commission.

Nikuv’s offices in Lesotho were raided in March last year, apparently in connection with an identity document contract awarded last year in controversial circumstances. It had previously won an open tender to supply passports in Lesotho.

Sunday Standard phoned Nikuv office in Gaborone and talked to a representative who only identified herself as Mira.

She said she was uneasy about discussing their dealings with government or BDP because “the information is very confidential”.

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