ZEC Chairperson Claims Their Website Was Cloned: Does That Statement Really Mean Anything?

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar
Biometric voter registration system, biometric authentication

Priscilla Chigumba the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commision has claimed that their website was cloned and it seems there has been a lot of confusion because of the statement.

What’s all the noise about?

Chigumba was being interviewed at Capitalk FM when she was asked about the privacy concerns that come with a detailed voters’ roll being online and easily accessible. In response to the question “…and what of the voters’ roll published that has peoples private information, the one that’s available on the internet… That is a cyber-security breach on every level ”, Chigumba said:

That’s a cyber-security breach. They cloned our site and we are in the process of doing something about it and we should have that site taken down in… during the course of the next ( get’s cut by presenter asking “It’s not yet down?”) Uhmm as of 12 midday today it wasn’t yet down.

It’s work in progress. The host is UK-based, so it’s not actually in Zimbabwe so we can’t use any of our local laws to bring it down. We are trying our best.

Because Chigumba said “clone” people have taken this to mean the ZEC website was hacked or compromised and whoever created Zim Election (the site that cloned ZEC) stole the database and uploaded it.

This however is wrong for a couple of reasons…

Let’s talk clones…

When Chigumba says the ZEC site was cloned what she means is that someone made a site that seems like theirs. By clone she does not mean ZEC was compromised or hacked, but that Zim Election (the organisation who uploaded the voters’ roll) made a site that looks similar to theirs. The only problem with this is that this website could not look more different than ZECs. Here are the websites:

ZECs website
Zim Election Website

I don’t think “clone” is really the best word to describe these two websites…

Anyway, ZEC wasn’t hacked. From listening to the Capitalk interview it sounded like the presenter thought that ZEC was responsible for this incident but that’s not really the case. If the voters’ roll is for sale (as it is) and someone buys a soft copy and decides to upload it online how do ZEC police that?

Did Zim Election do anything illegal?

I don’t think that Zim Election was out of line.

As noted in an earlier article, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) made an election report and one of the things they advised ZEC was that the voters’ roll should be “accessible and readily available for inspection to the public”. Considering the storied past of elections in our country this is obviously a suggestion that was made to ensure transparency, under the assumption that transparency would be in the best interests of the voting public. The only problem is the fact that the voters’ roll is too detailed and thus making it easily available might not be in the best interests of the voting public after all.

I would be surprised if the electoral commission can take down a site that is hosted outside the country. Before we even consider what the laws concerning this situation we have to consider the fact that the site is supposed to be aiding transparency during elections. For the UK government to take down a site that contains information that opposition parties have been requesting for a long time would certainly not be the best of looks for them. It is actually interesting to see if the UK government will have this site taken down at a time when they have already been accused of being ‘in bed’ with ZANU PF.


  1. Ugly Website

    The ZEC website must be the ugliest website I have ever seen. Since when does Africom make websites? They should stop

    1. Garikai Dzoma

      Oh it’s quite in line with the ugly government of Zimbabwe websites. Because of corruption and nepotism no outside designers are hired. Look at https://zimeservices.pfms.gov.zw/irj/portal/anonymous , http://www.defence.gov.zw/ etc the rule of thumb is that if its government its ugly.

      1. chirisa

        dzvoma its not about ugliness its about telling the public about defence services macolour awave kutaura haana basa in the scheme of things

  2. mr-lee

    There may be a huge mis-understanding on ZECs part here.
    The ZEC Chairlady is right, she probably used the term as their Security consultant told them.

    A website cloning does not mean copying the layout, no.
    Website cloning is duplicating the website, both frontend and backend.

    Imagine TechZim.
    It pulls data from a website right? No authentication of any sort. So i can use a simple HTTrack Trool to just load all the articles, save them to a database on my computer, then use that data on my own website.

    Thats how these guys harvested ZEC data. Thats how i’d do it.

    1. Farai Mudzingwa

      And how did they get their hands on the Voters’ roll which is not on the ZEC website?

      1. mr-lee

        They did not clone the ZEC static informational website, sec-dot-gov or whatever, they cloned the website where you can check your voters roll info, that is the one.

  3. Curious

    Hie Techzim. I was offline for two weeks and I came back to see the new site. Maybe there are improvements but in my case it has gotten worse. I use opera mini on ultra data saving mode with images off and with the new setup the new website is useless. Please consider that we are in a country where data is expensive. I hope I do not stop reading your articles due to this…

    1. Garikai Dzoma

      Switching ultra-data saving means some scripts and css could be blocked resulting in distorted display.

      I am not speaking for TechZim but myself here while your concerns are valid you should know that Opera Mini is not what it used to be. Designing a site to display well on every browser is a pain enough without adding custom layouts in question. What I do on my blog is look at the analytics data and try to make sure the site works well on most popular browsers. I have seen a shocking dip in the use of Opera Mini on my most popular blog. From 55% to less than 10%. I can understand why, Opera Mini is a hypocritical browser, they block ads but allow theirs through, only support a subset of Javascript fuctionality etc.

    2. Vepano

      I agree with you, this new layout is confusing even on a PC. Now I have to hunt down 4 sections to look for the latest article, the comments section is even worse – the ‘like’ start and the ‘reply’ link are sitting on top of each other – hmmmmm. The UX is not that intuitive for a blog. Hameno, pamwe ndini ndakasara but the old site was better.

      1. Rufaro Madamombe

        Hi Vepano, the latest section is literally the one that greets you when you open the site.

        We thought we had made it prominent enough but we will consider renaming it to “Latest Articles”.

        Thanks for your feedback!

    3. Rufaro Madamombe

      Hi Curious thanks for reaching out.

      After your comment we realised that titles were no longer showing up in Opera Mini and we fixed that as it was not by design.

      We are assuming that’s what you meant when you said the new website is useless in Opera Mini since without images (due to data saving) and no title appearing then one can’t really navigate around on the homepage to choose what article to read.

      Sorry you had a bad experience due to that issue and we hope that you’ll continue reading.

  4. bcgvaccination

    Thanks for sharing it..

  5. chirisa

    thanks techzim for clarifying mafundi acho akangooramba akati ziii this was a technical issue