Blog > From Programmer to Puppet-Master: How I Didn’t Rig the Zimbabwean Elections with a PDF Converter

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From Programmer to Puppet-Master: How I Didn’t Rig the Zimbabwean Elections with a PDF Converter

Posted by on Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Here is the unbelievable story … Last Thursday (03/28/2008) a newspaper called “Zimbabwe Online” published an article accusing my company (Cogniview) of helping Robert Mugabe, The infamous Zimbabwean president, rig the Zimbabwean elections.

Link to full story
The article continues to claim that my company has secret ties to the Israeli Mossad, and that the accusations came directly from the General Secretary of the MDC, Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party.

Before I go on with the details of the story, here’s my official response … this story is NOT TRUE. In fact it could have only been more fictional if we were accused of using alien technology. Here are some more facts:

  • We have no ties with Robert Mugabe’s party. We have never met or dealt in any way with him or any of his people.
  • We have no connections to the Israeli Mossad.
  • No Cogniview employee has ever been to Zimbabwe.

The full story up until now…

On Wednesday, a day before the article was published, I received an email from a Yahoo email address, inquiring whether my company was helping Robert Mugabe win the upcoming Zimbabwe elections. The email was so funny, I assumed it was spam and deleted it (not before being very impressed with how well it was tailored for my company).

A day later, an email from the site ZimOnline alerted me that there was an article on the site that concerned Cogniview. The article was even funnier than the email. At this point my respect for the Zimbabwean scam-artists was at an all-time high. Not only did they send me a well crafted email, they went as far as to setting up a mock newspaper and publishing an article there.

And then it became very serious very quickly …

I was contacted by a gentleman called Phil Matibe, a human rights activist from Zimbabwe currently living in the US, who wanted to get to the bottom of this story (I will be speaking with Mr. Matibe later today).

We also started getting emails from angry people telling us that we “sold the Zimbabwean people for 20 pieces of silver”

And then additional articles began to appear. Apparently we got 3 million dollars for helping Mugabe.

What I think happened

About a year ago we developed an Open-Source PDF converter called CC PDF converter. This converter (which is available for download for anyone that has an internet connection) allows one to convert anything printable into PDF. It also allows adding a Creative Commons license as the last page of the document. And at the very end of this page there is a link to Cogniview’s website.

I also learned (from the people that called to chastise us) 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).

Here’s what we are willing to do to help sort out this mess

Every respectable party (UN, US, European) that will want to investigate this matter will get Cogniview’s full cooperation. We will give them unlimited access to our legal and financial Records. We will also allow them to interview any employee in the company. Heck, they can strap us all to lie-detectors – we have nothing to hide.

But I’m hoping it won’t come to this. This story has the potential to damage my company’s reputation as well as to seriously damage the credibility of the MDC officials who spread this lie.

One last thing: If anyone from the MDC is reading this, please check your facts and denounce these lies. They bring you no honor.

I will continue to update as the story unfolds.