Itula vs Geingob: Endgame beckons

05 February 2020 | Justice

STAFF REPORTER



With judgment in the presidential election challenge brought by independent presidential candidate Dr Panduleni Itula set to be handed down by Chief Justice Peter Shivute in the Supreme Court at 10:00 today, the country effectively stands at a crossroads.

During the landmark hearing last month in front of a five-judge bench, South African constitutional lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett had argued on behalf of independent candidate Panduleni Itula that using electronic voting machines (EVMs) without a paper trail in the November 2019 presidential election had effectively meant an indispensable check and balance was missing.

Itula brought the Supreme Court challenge against the use of the EVMs in the presidential poll without a verifiable paper trail and wants the country’s highest court to nullify the results of the poll and order a rerun.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) announced after a bruising election battle that President Hage Geingob had been re-elected for a second term and had garnered 56.3% of the presidential vote, while Itula secured 29.4%.

However, a week later on 5 December 2019, the ECN updated its results for the Windhoek Rural Constituency after confirming that 7 000 votes for Itula had mistakenly been allocated to United Democratic Front (UDF) presidential candidate Apius Auchab.

In his 126-page affidavit with annexures, Itula had also extensively cited the revelation by the ECN that EVMs booked out for the Swapo Party Elders Council (SPEC) congress in 2017 had gone missing.

“Since July 2017 up to the presidential election in 2019 there thus existed ample opportunity for gaining intimate knowledge of the machines’ hardware and software.

“The risk of discovering means of tampering with the EVMs is real, as lawyers and politicians pointed out immediately when the news first broke in October 2019.

“They cautioned that the election could be rigged and the integrity of its outcome would become questionable.

“Yet, the self-same models of EVMs were used one month later during the 2019 elections. This without the safeguards parliament enacted, a verifiable paper trail,” Itula said in his affidavit.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanya said yesterday that the outcome of the court battle was difficult to predict and could go either way.

“Both parties have provided strong arguments against and for… and of course the issue here at heart is really the type of evidence presented warranting the nullification of the election and of course the type of arguments by those who opposed the application,” Kamwanyah said.

Asked what the outcome could mean for the country, Kamwanyah said if the presidential election results were nullified it would mean “new territory for Namibia”.

“And that would come with a lot of implications in terms of cost, in terms of rerunning the election, but also in terms of the reactions of the parties involved. So it would be new territory for us. If the election is not nullified then of course it will be business as usual and we proceed with our politics and proceed with the inauguration of the president and his new government in March,” Kamwanyah added.

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