ECN slammed for poor planning

Long delays caused by a higher than expected voter turnout and technical glitches meant that some people in the northern regions could not vote.

29 November 2019 | Politics

Many people were excited to cast their votes but delays in the voting process denied them the opportunity to exercise their democratic right.

This is being blamed on the slow voting process at some polling stations and the mobile teams that failed to get to polling stations on time.

In the Oshana Region, voters at the Omaalala Primary School and Panguleni Primary School polling stations in Ongwediva Constituency had to wait until midnight for the mobile teams to arrive.

According to the village headman for Ekolyanaambo number 2, Tomas Kamutufe, they were informed that the mobile team would be at Panguleni polling station by 16:00, but it showed up after midnight.

“When I got to the polling station at around 13:00 I found many people already lining up and ready to vote. By 16:00 the team was not there and they informed us that they were on their way, but they never showed up until midnight.

“I voted at 00:12 and there were other old people who waited for the team, risking their lives as they had to walk back home in the middle of the night,” said Kamutufe.

“This was very discouraging as at around 18:00 many people, especially the youth, decided to walk away and never returned. When the team came only a few people were still at the polling station.”

At Omaalala polling station, the ECN team arrived after 22:00 and it was raining at the time. After a few people had voted the power went off.

The Ongwediva Constituency returning officer, Albertina Alweendo, said the process was delayed because of a higher than expected voter turnout, but they made sure that everybody who was in the queue voted.

“We got more voters at the mobile station than expected. We couldn't turn people away as we had to make sure that everybody voted.

“We had to keep the next polling station posted that no matter how late it became, they would vote and we would only close whatever time we finished,” said Alweendo.

In the Ohangwena Region, a group of security guards left without voting after officials denied them the privilege to vote first.

Elias Ndume said they were on duty throughout the night and had hoped to cast their votes before going home to rest. But they found long queues at the nearest polling station, at the Roman Catholic Church at Oshikango.

“After overnight on duty and we had to go work another night shift, we just wanted to be given the privilege to cast our votes first. When we spoke to the ECN officials they told us that they couldn't help us because the system was slow and queues were long,” Ndume said.

“We were left with no other option but to walk away without voting. We had to go home and rest before our next shift.

“We so wanted to vote, but we could not risk our jobs. What if our supervisors found us sleeping on duty because we didn't have enough rest?”

ECN presiding officer Elizabeth Joseph said the slow process was due to a malfunctioning voter verification device (VVD), which meant they had to work manually.

During the vote collation process in the Oshikoto Region yesterday, there were some technical problems at the collation centre and ECN regional technicians had to drive long distances to attend to those problems before the counting could start.

That led to delayed results announcements from some constituencies.

ILENI NANDJATO

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