Shanghala plays the artful dodger

23 October 2019 | Politics

CATHERINE SASMAN



Justice minister Sacky Shanghala, who is alleged to have booked out electronic voting machines (EVMs) that have been missing since 2017, is remaining mum, and has instead deferred to the Electoral Commission of Namibia’s comments on the matter.

It was reported that Shanghala, who is currently in Morocco, booked out the EVMs for use in the July 2017 Swapo Party Elders’ Council (SPEC) elective congress. He was attorney-general at the time.

The machines, according to an ECN statement on Sunday, were ‘loaned’ to Swapo for this purpose.

Namibian Sun wanted to know from Shanghala what happened to the missing EVMs, where they have been since 2017 and whether he had reported to the ECN and the police that they were missing

Shanghala also refused to say whether he was in contact with the ECN and/or the police to explain what happened.

“Please be referred to the response of the ECN,” was Shanghala’s only reply to a detailed list of questions.

The electoral body said in a statement issued on Sunday that four control units and two ballot units of the EVMs had not been returned after the SPEC congress held at Outapi.

The ECN said it had a long-standing practice to lend EVMs to political parties, churches, trade unions, tertiary institutions, local authorities and schools to conduct their internal elections.

Mujoro refused on Monday to comment further on the issue.

“The ECN is not at liberty at this stage to divulge any further information on the missing EVM units given the ongoing police investigations,” he said.

The leader of the All People’s Party (APP) Ignatius Shixwameni said Shanghala must explain what happened to the voting machines and be held accountable.

“The police must interrogate him. Where are the machines? The ECN must lay charges against Shanghala for not returning the voting machines,” Shixwameni said.

Opposition peeved

Opposition parties say they will lodge formal complaints with the ECN over the missing voting machines.

Mujoro had further said in Sunday’s ECN statement they were fully aware of the units not having been returned and had their serial numbers on record.

He said one of the control units had been found at Otjiwarongo and was in the possession of the police as part of an ongoing investigation.

Mujoro said because the investigation was continuing, the ECN would not publicly divulge any further information on the matter.

The president of the Rally for Progress and Democracy (RDP), Mike Kavekotora, however, insists that the ECN must account for the missing units and say why it has kept quiet about them since 2017.

“If that is true it means the entire electoral process is not in good hands,” Kavekotora said.

“We have complained about the reliability of the EVMs. How can the ECN now ensure the integrity of the electoral process?”

The president of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), McHenry Venaani, commented that the missing EVM units “created suspicions of fraud”, and that the electoral process was “open for rigging”.

“Considering the use of the EVMs without a paper trail makes a mockery of our elections,” Venaani said.

Shixwameni says the fact that units are missing creates the suspicion that the voting machines were “taken out deliberately so that someone can go and play with them”, or that a team of technicians can be used to change the functions of the machines in an attempt to rig the elections.

“The ECN must own up to this. It must give a plausible explanation and tell the nation the truth. The fact that it has remained quiet makes it even more suspicious.

“It gives the impression that the ECN is aware of the whereabouts of the machines. If someone breaks into your house, you report the matter to the police. How can a responsible organisation know about the missing EVMs and not report it?” Shixwameni questioned.

“There is obviously no control and it should be clear why the ECN and Swapo are hell-bent on using the EVMs,” Henk Mudge of the Republican Party (RP) commented.

Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi said Swapo must pay for the missing voting units, which are state assets.

It is not clear whether the ECN has laid a formal charge with the police, but it is understood that intelligence officers submitted a report on the missing units to Inspector-General Sebastian Ndeitunga about two weeks ago.

Ndeitunga would not comment on the matter on Friday, and referred all questions to the chief police spokesperson, Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi.

Kanguatjivi, however, said he was not in a position to provide any answers because he had no details of the matter and would require a case number to find out.

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