Voters in New York raise concern

The Namibian mission to the United Nations has rejected allegations of ballot tampering in New York.

27 November 2019 | Politics

CATHERINE SASMAN



Some of the 54 Namibians living in the United States who voted in the special election on 13 November have expressed “dismay and disappointment” with the way the vote was conducted by officials attached to the Namibian mission to the United Nations.

Writing on behalf of other Namibians, Tami Campbell listed these concerns in a letter to Neville Gertze, Namibia’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The first concern was that voters had to mark ballot papers with a pencil, which raised suspicion that the ballots could be tampered with.

Campbell said when they asked officials why they had to use pencils, the officials “dismissively” stated that it was in line with SADC protocols on elections.

A second concern was that the permanent mission counted the 54 ballots in a “secret room somewhere in the building” while about 15 of the voters were waiting for the results.

“We thought that ballot counting would be conducted in a transparent way for all to see, thus ensuring integrity,” Campbell wrote.

Also suspicious, she said, was the fact that the counting took “unusually long” – two hours – before the results were announced.

Campbell and the group of 15 who had waited for the results said they did not trust the results posted outside the UN mission because, after comparing notes, they established that none of them had voted for President Hage Geingob.

According to the results Geingob received 24 votes, independent presidential candidate Dr Panduleni Itula 15, and Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) president McHenry Venaani 12. Nudo’s Esther Muinjangue garnered two votes and Swanu’s Tangeni Iijambo only one.

Campbell said they felt “betrayed and cheated”.

“In drafting this letter, we have spoken to a dozen other Namibians who voted in New York City that day and they are all shocked by the results showing Dr Geingob winning the majority of the votes,” Campbell wrote.

Gertze confirmed having received the letter and tersely commented that it appeared to have been written on his behalf too, since he was one of the 54 people who had voted at the permanent mission.

“I can simply say that a number of voters have since written to me to disassociate themselves from the letter as they were not consulted on the drafting of the letter,” Gertze wrote in response.

He said those who distanced themselves from the letter had taken issue with the “blatant misrepresentation and false allegations” it contained.

Gertze said it was “a mystery” why the letter was addressed to him, since neither he nor the mission conducted the election.

“The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) conducted the election and two staff members of the mission served the ECN in their personal capacity during the elections, which Gertze said they did in strict compliance with the rules and procedures of the ECN.

“My only observation is that political parties could have been approached by their supporters to ensure that they were registered to observe the elections in foreign missions as well. Had they done so, they would have seen for themselves that the election officials had done nothing, and I repeat nothing, outside the strict rules, regulations and procedures of the ECN,” Gertze said.

He added: “The fact of the matter is that the results posted by the polling station in New York truly and accurately reflect the will and choice of the voters who exercised their democratic rights on that day.”

The head of the ECN, Theo Mujoro, said voting at foreign missions was done on manual ballot papers, marked in pencil, in exactly the same way it had been done in all elections before the introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in 2014.

This was done because it would have been a “logistical nightmare” to transport the EVMs to foreign missions, he said.

He said it would be close to impossible to verify who had voted for whom, despite what people said.

Mujoro said he had asked the returning officer to get a full report from the presiding officer at the New York polling station on what had happened there. The ECN was still waiting for the report, he said.

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