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Sunday, 13 April 2008

Zimbabwe and Israeli tekkies

There's an interesting story on Global Voices about how Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) , told journalists in Harare that an Israeli company, Cogniview was offering technical support to the Zimbabwean dictatorship and that:
“Mugabe and his cronies intend to steal this election through the use of sophisticated software provided by the Israeli company with Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency) connections.”
Cogniview make an Open Source PDF converter and 'somehow' this was linked to Zimbabwe's elections.

Yoav Ezer, from Cogniview explains that:
The voter-roles that were provided to the MDC by Zimbabwean officials were in PDF format and had a link to Cogniview’s website.
My guess is that the people at the MDC wanted to get the voter data in a format they could easily handle (like Excel) and instead got it in a PDF file (that was produced by our converter). They got (justifiably) angry and concocted a story about the Israeli Mossad and my company (this part isn’t justifiable).
Tekkie to tekkie, this all makes sense. What amazed me was how they couldn't understand why the MDC might suspect something was up. Are they not aware of history, which is of Israeli support for South Africa under apartheid and of selling riot control vehicles to Mugabe?

Nelson Mandela:
Following his release from prison in 1990, Mandela said, "Almost every country in the world -- except Israel" had invited him to visit.

Israel's invitation came only in 1994, but then the peace process did not make a visit politic. However, he now decided to show a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.

"To the many people who have questioned why I came, I say: Israel worked very closely with the apartheid regime. I say: I've made peace with many men who slaughtered our people like animals. Israel cooperated with the apartheid regime, but it did not participate in any atrocities."
No wonder that a - yes - paranoid, but hardly unsurprisingly so given how Mugabe operates, MDC official might suspect support for Mugabe by Israelis (even given Mugabe's comparison of himself with Hitler).

As I have often noted, tech companies aren't brilliant at PR.


From the blogosphere (best source for real news, although the BBC is doing well - except for who it's linking to) one amusing story from Zim:
One other development during the past two weeks has been the ludicrous sight of defeated Zanu-PF candidates trying to recover the bribes and inducements they distributed to voters before the election in an attempt to buy support.

One such is Elias Musakwa, the Zanu-PF losing candidate for Bikita West constituency, who is believed to have been successful in recovering some computers he gave to schools and training centres. But in the villages he met problems.

One villager, Cleopas Moyo, told me: "During the campaign he gave us ploughs, harrows, cultivators, computers, maize-meal, furniture, sewing machines, money, cooking oil, clothes and other things. We ate all the food, and some of the equipment we sold. But now he wants everything back."

Asked for a comment, Musakwa came up with a unique excuse: "I made it clear that when I gave them the goods it was for them to use for a specific time. I never intended to give them permanently."

More great Zapiro cartoons

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