HARARE – The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on Tuesday filed a criminal complaint against Pachedu, a group of election integrity activists who have been exposing alleged voters roll manipulation and poll management incompetence by the elections body.
ZEC spokesman Jasper Mangwana, without naming Pachedu, said they had filed a multi-pronged police complaint.
He tweeted: “Case reported to the police on allegations of hacktivism, impersonation, unauthorised data mining and cyberterrorism or bullying.”
Law enforcement sources confirmed that the complaint was targeting Pachedu, whose IT experts have been scrutinising the roll of voters for errors while also exposing the poor security on the ZEC website.
ZEC has been at loggerheads with Pachedu, which accuses the elections body of manipulating the voters roll to promote election theft.
Pachedu’s analysis has revealed voters being moved from their polling stations without their knowledge, and with the effect of disenfrachising them, as well large numbers of voters being registered at addresses linked to Zanu PF officials. ZEC, despite a legal requirement, has refused to supply the updated voters roll to opposition lawmakers and other interest groups.
The alleged claim of hacktivism is thought to relate to claims that Pachedu “hacked” the ZEC website, which the group denies.
The impersonation claim, first raised by exiled former Zanu PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo, is linked to Pachedu’s logo used as a profile picture on Twitter and looks almost similar to the ZEC logo.
19/24 In a twist this month, that proves @PacheduZW‘s malafides towards @ZECzim – the regime change outfit co-founded & led by an American citizen (@wesbeal) who has high level contacts in the #USGovt – illegally incorporated #ZEC acronym with its colours, onto the #Pachedu logo! pic.twitter.com/OAezEvqGA1
— Prof Jonathan Moyo (@ProfJNMoyo) November 24, 2022
ZEC also claims illegal data mining by Pachedu, allegedly because it obtained a voters roll for examination outside the country. In a November 24 tweet posted without context, Mangwana said the Cyber Security and Data Protection Act does not allow the transfer of data to a third part in a foreign country without official authorisation.
Some of Pachedu’s known current and former members include Tafadzwa Sambiri, an IT expert; programmer and web developer William du Plooy; biomedical scientist and software engineer Freeman Chari; investment analyst and IT enthusiast Runyararo Mherekumombe and Election Resource Centre founder Topper Whitehead.
In its own public disclosure, Pachedu said it had five other members whose identifies were not revealed – one a political scientist; an auditor and statistician; a data scientist; a linguist and editor and a bio-statistician and research consultant.
ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba would approved the decision to report Pachedu to ZRP. Few believe there is a prosecutable case, with the intention appearing to intimidate Pachedu and other activists.
Zimbabwe holds key elections expected in the second half of next year as the opposition and election transparency activists continue to voice disquiet about ZEC’s alleged lack of impartiality in carrying out its election management role.