EVMs in the firing line

The electoral court will hear a challenge against the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) without a paper trail on Tuesday.

15 November 2019 | Politics

Independent president candidate Panduleni Itula, the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) and Swapo will square off in the electoral court on Tuesday, 19 November over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) without a paper trail.

Lawyers acting for Itula had given the ECN until close of business on Monday to give their client an undertaking that independent and qualified technicians will be appointed to attend every polling station for the inspection of voting machines to be used on 27 November for the National Assembly and presidential polls. Alternatively, Itula wanted a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) used with each EVM.

If this is not done, he wants paper ballots to be used. He also wanted ECN chairperson Notemba Tjipueja to show why he should not hold her liable for the negligent storage of EVMs. This relates to the EVMs that allegedly fell off a trailer in 2017, after being booked out by now former justice minister Sacky Shanghala for use at a Swapo Party Elders Council (SPEC) congress in Outapi.

The ECN's failure to give into his demands has now led to Itula approaching the electoral tribunal.



Swapo summons drama

Itula's lawyer Henry Shimutwikeni confirmed they delivered the summons to the ruling party yesterday.

However, Swapo staff at the party headquarters refused to receive the summons and apparently drama followed when one of Shimutwikeni's staff members had to “escape” from the ruling party headquarters.

“She started running towards the B1 service station, but two Swapo officials started following her, so she called the police. They then stopped,” a source said. The vehicle she was driving has since been released.

Swapo executive director Austin Samupwa could not be reached for comment.



Negligent

Itula has accused the ECN of running a “negligent, dishonest, imprudent and haphazard” administration, when it comes to the safekeeping of the EVMs.

Itula, who recently organised a march to the ECN offices, further accused the electoral body's chief electoral and referenda officer Theo Mujoro of refusing to receive petitions against the use of the EVMs in the upcoming general election.

Itula's threats come after the ECN announced that some of the machines had gone missing while in the custody of Swapo.

It has also since come to light that contrary to the ECN's assurances that the police were investigating the matter, no criminal case was opened. The ministry of finance has also said they had not granted approval for the ECN to loan out the machines.

Mujoro said he was not notified that Itula had plans to hand over a petition to him.

“I was never informed that a petition was to be delivered to us and for that reason I did not make myself available. Had I known that he wanted to hand over a petition I would have made myself available,” he said.

Mujoro added they will study the legal papers.

“I need to just look at them before we can respond.”

[email protected]

JEMIMA BEUKES

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