Tribunal to decide on EVMs

The Electoral Tribunal yesterday heard an application by independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula to stop the use of electronic voting machines in next week's elections.

20 November 2019 | Politics

The Electoral Tribunal, chaired by Magistrate Uaatjo Uanivi, will rule on 25 November on an application by independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula that electronic voting machines (EVMs) be replaced with ballot papers.

Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) lawyers yesterday called Itula's application to the Electoral Tribunal “speculative, immature, pre-emptive and frivolous”.

The ECN squared off in the Electoral Tribunal with Itula, who has demanded the withdrawal of EVMs from next week's National Assembly and Presidential elections, or alternatively that a paper trail be implemented. Itula also demanded that the ECN, at its own cost, bring in independent technical experts to inspect the EVMs on the polling date.

The dentist, represented in court by Henry Shimutwikeni, was supported by the Workers' Revolutionary Party (WRP), whose leader Hewat Beukes yesterday said Itula would “undoubtedly” win the presidential election if it were held fairly. But if the EVMs were used, Itula would not win despite being “the choice of the people”, because these machines were flawed, Beukes claimed. Itula's counsel said they had repeatedly and fruitlessly urged the ECN to prove the credibility of the EVMs but were forced to approach the tribunal.

“We have received no response from the ECN or even acknowledgement that they had received our communication. We have been knocking on their door but they do not respond. There is no other way,” Shimutwikeni stressed.

He also emphasised that there is no law which obliges the ECN to use the EVMs in the upcoming elections. The ECN's legal team included Nixon Marcus, Eliaser Nekwaya and South African senior counsel William Makhare.

According to ECN the case is not urgent. They accused Itula of “using unsubstantiated fear in his head to come to the tribunal.”

They also insisted that Itula's application was a waste of time because the High Court had decided on the matter in 2014, hence the application should be removed from the court roll.

According to the ECN, Itula's arguments are not grounded in fact and are “a smokescreen to create drama.”

They also questioned the jurisdiction of the tribunal and insisted Itula should wait until election day on 27 November to see if the inspections took place and only then can he take action.

Shimutwikeni however said it did not make sense for someone to “see the fire on the horizon and sit with evidence but do nothing.”

He also raised the issue of the EVMs that were lost recently and questioned whether the use of the machines during the elections would influence the final election results.

“It would be unfortunate for the tribunal to absolve the commission. Can somebody be held accountable?” he said.

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JEMIMA BEUKES

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