Vice President Joice Mujuru’s political career was wrecked through a well-coordinated and systematic operation of communication surveillance and recordings, including voice cloning and video morphing using high-tech gadgets.
Documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent this week plucked out of a top secret Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) report on recordings of senior government officials suggest Mujuru — who is not technology-savvy — is a victim of a covert listening operation and video recording by a clique within the CIO sympathetic
to her rival, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and First Lady Grace Mugabe.
“Mujuru was destroyed through an operation of intense communication surveillance and recordings, including voice cloning and video morphing using high-tech equipment,” an experienced CIO officer said provided the documents.
“Her communications were monitored 24/7; her calls, messages and movements were watched. But it was the recording done at her home by the First Lady’s agent which was the turning point as it provided decisive audio-visual evidence that she is personally against her.
All the other materials available were not directly incriminating.
“The agent (who is Grace’s aide) recorded Mujuru through a micro-digital video recorder with a hidden camera which records in a discreet and effective way while he was sitting in front of her at her house in Chisipite. Hidden micro cameras are embedded in items like watches, pens and necklaces etc.”
The Independent indicated months ago although it was difficult to prove it then that Grace did not like Mujuru because there was some recordings in which she said if she caught saying if she takes over from Mugabe she would seize the farms the First Lady is grabbing in Mazowe and give them to villagers there.
Grace this week helped to confirm the issue – widely known in media circles – that she had some recordings on Mujuru even though it appears they were obtained unconstitutionality and illegally as there was no court order authorising them.
In terms of Section of 57 of the new constitution it is illegal to listen to or record private communications without permission from the courts. “Every person has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have … the privacy of their communications infringed.”
At separate meetings with students and cross-border traders on Monday and Tuesday respectively at her Mazowe farm, Grace, who has accused Mujuru of corruption, plots to topple Mugabe and even assassinate him and herself, confirmed she is possession of recordings of Mujuru wearing a mini-skirt at her home while gossiping about her and the president.
In the video recording, Mujuru is said to have complained that: “Mai Mugabe vanongoswera vachikwekweredza nekamudhara ikako nenyaya yekukara mari. (Grace Mugabe is dragging the old man (Mugabe) around and stopping him from retiring because of greed.)”
“Mugabe is grandmaster and will have the last laugh. I trapped Mujuru and I now have recordings of her in a mini-skirt, speaking ill of me and the president,” Grace, again shooting from the hip, told students on Monday.”
Clarifying the mini-skirt issue at a rally with vendors and cross-border traders on Tuesday, Grace said: “What she was wearing in the video was inappropriate considering she was in her lounge with a young man (her agent).”
The First Lady said she is also in possession of another recording of Mujuru scoffing at her ear-infection in front of the same young man. Grace did not disclose the name of the man she sent to record Mujuru, but intelligence sources say it was someone, whose was privately provided although he cannot be mentioned for legal reasons, close to both women. Besides Grace’s own covert operation, a faction in intelligence has been closely monitoring Mujuru and her close lieutenants’ communications through phones and other gadgets as part of the process leading towards congress where her fate would be sealed.
Top intelligence sources said during this operation they managed to make many recordings of telephone conversations, messages and internet-based discussions.
While a lot has been gathered by tailing Mujuru and her close allies, some of the material has been tampered with in order to link them with plots that are non- existent.
The intelligence officers say Mujuru certainly did gossip about Grace and her husband, saying some negative things about them, including threats to seize their Mazowe farms if she came to power. The Gaddafi-style elimination of Grace seems to be an exaggeration, although a lot of nasty name-calling and derisions are true.
However, sources say some of the gathered material was tampered with and manipulated to produce reports which claim Mujuru wanted to topple or assassinate Mugabe.
The documents explain how voice cloning and video morphing were done. This was in relation to the Mujuru and her allies’ case.
“This (voice cloning) is usually achieved through the adaptation of voices through telecom intercepts, followed by synthesised voice cloning and ultimately leading to the abuse and manipulation of those adapted and cloned voices being used to utter words by of the text-to-speech software technology,” reads part of documents.
“The text-to-speech software available is capable of reading prepared text, which is then read by the cloned voice and recorded. The final product is then played back to unsuspecting audiences. This opportunistic forgery can cause havoc and strain relationship between friends and relatives.”
AT&T Labs in the United States was one of the first companies to develop the software called “Natural Voices” which they say is so good at reproducing the sounds, effects and intonations of a human voice that it can recreate voices and even bring the voices of long-dead celebrities back to life.
The software, which is said to turn printed text into synthesised speech, makes it possible for the user to manipulate recordings of a person’s voice to utter things he/she did not actually say.
In an article in the New York Times of July 31 2001, AT&T Labs vice-persident Lawrence R Rabiner said: “Some of those who have tested the technology say it is the first text-to-speech software to raise the spectre of voice cloning, replicating a person’s voice so perfectly that the human ear cannot tell the difference.”
One classic case in which voice cloning was used was in a controversial Nike advert featuring golfer Tiger’s Woods’ late father, Earl Woods, in 2010.
But what made digital history was the impressive visual and vocals of Tupac’s resurrection at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2012.
In one recording, Gumbo is accused of saying Mugabe is going to be killed the Laurent Kabila. Suspended Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo insists the recordings of Mujuru and her allies are fake. “They are using voice morphing and attributing their recordings to people that are said to be aligned to the vice-president,” he said.
Zanu PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa, also State Security minister, allegedly told a lover Mugabe will be shot if he blocks Mujuru’s ascendancy.
Mujuru this week said: “I deny any and all allegations of treason, corruption, incompetence and misuse of public office being routinely made against me.”
A senior intelligence source said: “While some of the recordings are genuine, some of them are morphed material. Every seasoned operative would know that.”