Disappearing cops still with ECN

Two police officers on Tuesday evening disappeared with sensitive election materials and returned them 40 minutes prior to the start of voting.

26 November 2020 | Politics

ESTER KAMATI

OTJIWARONGO

Two police officers, who ‘disappeared’ with election materials at Otjiwarongo on Tuesday night and returned them 40 minutes before voting started yesterday morning, have been retained to continue their work with the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN).

It continues a trend where two polling officials who openly campaigned for the ruling party Swapo at the same town on Sunday were immediately reinstated without legal explanation.

Yesterday, as polling officials were preparing to start the voting process at a mobile polling station situated at the police canteen in Otjiwarongo, it was realised the voting materials were not at the venue.

Moments later, at around 06:20, two police officers who had been tasked to guard the material overnight at the polling station showed up with the materials, which should never have been removed from the venue.

It is not clear where the police officers spent the night, although they and the polling officials were supposed to spend the night in the polling station.

The equipment that the two officers removed included ballot boxes for the regional and local authority elections, and electoral stamps.

ECN returning officer Zongo Kaura confirmed the incident yesterday, stating that he received a call from the presiding officer at 05:37 informing him that the material was not at the venue and had not been there overnight.

At 06:20 the first officer arrived at the venue with the material and a few minutes later, his colleague also turned up.

Kaura added that the political party agents were informed of what had happened and were invited to observe and inspect the seals.

The ballot books were also inspected page by page to check for any alterations.

“To their satisfaction they haven’t seen anything that was altered,” said Kaura, who also gave a statement to police investigators.

Otjiwarongo police commissioner Henrich Thiweze would not comment, but said investigations would continue.

Chief of police Sebastian Ndeitunga, when approached for comment, described the incident as unacceptable misconduct.

He said the two officers should be removed from polling duties and charged accordingly.

Slow-moving queues

Namibia Media Holdings (NMH) correspondents deployed across the regions yesterday reported that the process, though slow, was tranquil and generally transparent.

At Otjiwarongo, some voters were turned away because they had recently relocated to the town and therefore did not qualify as residents of that constituency.

This election does not allow tendered ballots, where people may vote in another constituency and have their vote added to those of their constituency of origin.

At Omaruru in the Erongo Region, a voter was arrested for taking photos while casting his vote. It is not clear whether he was charged or released.

While places like Mariental, Windhoek and the coast experienced long voter queues, Rundu in Kavango East Region was a total contrast, as some polling stations went as long as 15 minutes without a single voter turning up.

Following a recent complaint by the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement, the ECN created separate voting queues for pensioners and non-pensioners.

In the past, senior citizens were given preference to vote ahead of younger voters, something AR said could distort the final outcome of elections as the two groups’ political preferences are seen to be different.

At a press conference yesterday, ECN chairperson Notemba Tjipueja said she was happy with how the voting process went overall.

The ECN had registered 93 independent candidates for the regional council election – a record number. A total of 493 candidates contested the regional council election, 70 of them women.

Swapo was elected unopposed in the Nkurenkuru, Torondo, Mankumpi and Uuvudhiya constituencies.

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