Opposition let themselves down

24 January 2019 | Columns

It is a common fact that many of our opposition parties are not as organised as the ruling party. Weak operational structures, especially at regional level, and largely due to limited funds, are still the order of the day. It is also interesting to note that our opposition have failed to speak with one voice when it matters. A case in point is the contentious issue around the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) for elections. Just days before the 2014 general election, the High Court ruled against some opposition parties who had asked the court to set aside a section of the Electoral Act, which authorises the line minister to suspend the use of an EVM paper trail, arguing this was unconstitutional. The opposition claimed in their affidavit that the use of EVMs without a verifiable paper trail would leave the door open to election rigging. The High Court ruled the matter was not urgent, given the fact that the opposition parties had long been in possession of documents suggesting that EVMs would be used in the elections without a verifiable paper trail. The court also ruled that the opposition should have first engaged the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) before approaching the courts. There was thus no ruling on the merits of the case, which remains critical. In an interview this week with Namibian Sun, ECN boss Theo Mujoro claimed they would need at least N$160 million to implement a verifiable paper trail. Obviously the elections are just months away, but the fact remains there hasn't been high-level talks involving the ECN and important stakeholders, such as political parties in parliament, on the use of EVMs without a verifiable paper trail. The reactive attitude of waking up late is exactly what is not helping the cause of opposition parties in Namibia. Such a debate should have taken place already, to allow the ECN to focus on voter education campaigns, as well as preparations for the upcoming polls.