ECN denies ballot boxes were tampered with

By-election starts
ECN denies that ballot boxes for the Swakopmund by-election were tampered with.
Adam Hartman
The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) denied that any of the ballot boxes for the August 12 Swakopmund constituency by-election delivered to Swakopmund on Sunday was tampered with.

The denial followed after an accusation implying that this was the case, made by the Landless People's Movement leader Bernadus Swartbooi earlier this week. According to Swartbooi, a police officer allegedly informed the party that one of the ballot boxes delivered was open when it arrived at the Mondesa police station, where the boxes were secured in safe custody for the by-election.

"The ECN takes strong exception of the allegations. No ballot box was opened. All ECN seals and seals of political parties were fixed to all ballot boxes in Windhoek, from where they were transported and were still intact at the time of offloading at the Mondesa police station," said ECN acting chief electoral and referenda officer Petrus Shaama in a press statement issued on Thursday.

According to Shaama this was verified and confirmed by the political parties representatives present at the delivery, which included the LPM. He assured all stakeholders that all processes of this by-election "remain above board, transparent and credible". "All contesting political parties were given an opportunity to observe all key stages of the pre-electoral phase of this by-election, including the printing and final distribution of ballot papers. The LPM, on their own accord, was the only political party that accompanied the escort convoy of sensitive election materials from the ECN in headquarters to Swakopmund on Sunday, 7 August."

Shaama urged all political parties to refrain from any malicious conduct, or from spreading false information, that might derail electoral processes.

In the meantime, ECN chairperson Elsie Nghikembua officially closed the training workshop for 145 polling officials at Swakopmund on Thursday and told the officials that it was important that they understand and appreciate that their individual actions "can make or break our democracy". "As such the responsibility on you and indeed all of us is enormous. It is not to be taken lightly. Elections in nature are dynamic, sensitive and delicate, and could be detrimental if not handled effectively. The increase in the competitive electoral environment has demanded of us to demonstrate high-levels of competency and commitment to the process," she said.

Nghikembua warned that the commission will not condone mediocrity in the performance to ensure that credible and transparent, and peaceful elections are conducted. She confirmed that all preparations to conduct the Swakopmund constituency by-election are in place.

The by-election is being held to fill the position left vacant by Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) candidate Ciske Smith-Howard whose representation for the party in the constituency was terminated in May.

The eight candidates running are Lousia Kativa (IPC), Zerold Danto of the United Democratic Front (UDF), Rodger Dausab of the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), Tangeni Musheka of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), independent candidate Williward Narib, Popular Democratic Movement’s Lelani Pascheka (PDM, former Swakopmund mayor Nehemia Salomon of Swapo, and Bernhard von Zeydlitz-Kurzbach of the United People’s Movement UPM).

The polls will open at 07:00, and voters have a chance until 21:00 to make their vote count. There are 29 polling stations (of which three are mobile).