WINDHOEK – Hundreds of thousands of Namibian voters joined long queues when voting started on Friday from seven o’clock in the morning but were slowed by technical problems ineptly handled by nervous-looking polling officials.
Officially polling was supposed to start at 07h00 and close at 21h00 for the over 1.2 million registered voters among them first-time voters or so-called ‘born frees’ but at some polling stations voters only cast their votes on Saturday morning at around 03h00.
The ‘born free’ generation comprising of people born after Namibia’s independence in 1990 constituted 20 percent of the over 1.2 million registered voters across Namibia.
Voting was expected to start in the morning at 7:00 but some of the polling stations could not start on time because of glitches with some of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) being used for the first time in any African presidential and parliamentary elections.
By early Friday morning hordes of Namibians could be seen congregating at the polling station at Dagbreek Special School in Klein Windhoek.
But by 08:45 some of these potential voters among them senior officials left the polling station in frustration because the EVMs were not working at the polling station. Other potential voters could be seen still milling around.
One of the potential voters said he had heard that at least five other nearby polling stations had similar problems.
The incumbent President Hifikepunye Pohamba and the First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba cast their votes at around 08:00 at the polling station at Suiderhof Primary School near State House.
At the polling station at Acacia High School in Khomasdal in Windhoek where Martin Petrus was the first in the queue after he went to the station at 04:00, voting started almost 30 minutes later after the polling station opened at 07:00 because of technical problems with the EVMs attributed to “human factors” by the Director of Elections of the Electoral Commission of Namibia, Professor Paul Isaak.
Edward Haufiku who was among the elderly voters whose queue received preference said: “I do not know what is going on,” in reference to the poll delay.
At the polling station at Acacia High School in Windhoek voting only started at 07h24 when the first voter entered the polling station to have his voter card verified and for his left thumb to be marked with dark indelible voting ink.
After which he signed a voters’ accounting register and was ushered in to vote for his presidential candidate of choice. He then proceeded to another polling booth to use the easy-to-use EVM to cast an electronic vote to vote simultaneously in the parallel National Assembly election.
Loide Jason a born-free and resident in Ongwediva in Oshana Region was exuberant after voting exactly shortly after 07h00.
She voted at the polling station set up at the Oukwanyama palace of Queen Martha Mwadinomho Kristian Nelumbu shortly after the revered queen and the Ohangwena Governor Uusko Ngamwaa cast their votes when polls opened.
“Yes I am done. It was my first time but it was smooth, fast and interesting at the same time,” she told a Xinhua correspondent by telephone.
Vincent Sinalumbu, a deputy director at the National Assembly said he was only able to vote late in the afternoon when queues seemed to shorten in Cimbebasia.
“I am now in in Soweto in Katutura where the queues are too long. I was in the queue in Cimbebasia at 06h30 but the queue was already long, I have now decided I will only vote in the afternoon,” said Sinalumbu.
“In Olympia the queue was so long it stretched along the length of the road because the EVM could not function for at least one hour,” he said.
In Katima Mulilo, George Sanzila said several polling stations also experienced some glitches with the EVMs.
Sanzila who voted at Gunkwe some 30 km outside Katima Mulilo said the EVM for the National Assembly election was not working at Gunkwe where only the EVM for the presidential poll functioned.
Sanzila who voted in the morning said voter verification machines at Chotto and at Greenwell Matongo Combined School in Zambezi Region also malfunctioned “resulting in long queues”.
He said the EVMs started functioning after “they were reset”.
Despite the delays some political party agents posted at thousands of polling stations across the country said they were generally satisfied with the “smooth voting”.
The ECN’s Professor Isaak confirmed the delays that he attributed to “operator errors with regard to the voter verification devices. As a sign of the teething problems, some of the operators seem to have panicked as the verification devices were introduced for the first time.”
The former president and the founding father of the Namibian nation, Dr Sam Nujoma, voted at United House in downtown Windhoek with the leading presidential candidate Dr Hage Geingob having cast his vote in Katutura, the high-density mainly low-income suburb.
There were16 political parties vying for 96 parliamentary seats and nine parties jostling for the coveted and ultimate political seat of president.
By Chrispin Inambao