Chamisa’s Russian rigging plot described as ‘childish’

HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF has rubbished MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s claims that it was colluding with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) in an elaborate plot to rig next month’s elections using Russian cyber experts.

Chamisa made the sensational claims on Wednesday while addressing thousands of his supporters after a demonstration meant to force Zec to meet their demands for free, fair and credible elections on July 30.

Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo reacted angrily to the allegations calling them “childish”.

“He (Chamisa) must come forth with evidence to back his claim. Can he identify the Russians he is talking about? We are sick and tired of such childish allegations that are meant for media attention. If there is anything like that, why doesn’t he prove it?” Khaya Moyo said in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday.

Chamisa said he was getting classified information from Mnangagwa’s inner circle as well as elements in the Zimbabwe National Army’s intelligence department. He suggested the centre could no longer hold in the ruling establishment, which he said was leaking like a sieve.

“We know what they are doing and now they have brought in about 64 Russians who are tampering with the ballot papers and the voters’ roll,” Chamisa claimed.

“If they are helping Zanu PF, then we have an issue with them because we are a sovereign national and foreigners must not interfere with our internal electoral processes,” he said.

This is not the first time that suspicions of foreign actors in the country’s electoral processes have been raised.

Zimbabwe is just the latest country to be confronted with untested allegations of cyber attacks relating to State-supported interference in elections: ranging from email hacking and doxing, in the 2016 US presidential election, to cyber attacks on the Bundestag surrounding the 2015 German parliamentary elections, to dissemination of “fake news” surrounding 2016 Italian referendum votes.

International law gives States limited means by which to respond to election interference.

Last month, exiled former Cabinet minister and Zanu PF politburo member, Jonathan Moyo claimed the ruling party had colluded with Zec to rig  much-awaited elections using hired Chinese experts.

Moyo, who fled the country at the height of a military operation which facilitated former president Robert Mugabe’s ouster last November, claimed the rigging plot was on an industrial scale and was going to be carried out in 14 different ways.

“Government has seconded to Zec a team of Chinese BVR (Biometric Voter Registration) & cyber experts from the People’s Liberation Army linked to a top Chinese university.

“Their remit is to manipulate the voters’ roll through shadowy & virtual polling stations and fake voters,” he said in a post on his Twitter handle.

“The plot is to rig on an industrial scale. The rigging is centred on (1) manipulation of the BVR voters’ roll; (2) manipulation of polling stations by Zec technical staff from security organs and (3) army intimidation of voters in villages,” Moyo, who once served as government propagandist, said.

Zec is however, on record dismissing Moyo’s claims as highly mischievous and claiming that the elections body was independent from both Zanu PF and government.