Call for extra voting days

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WINDHOEK – After learning that many other people did not get the chance to vote in last Friday’s national elections, shack-dwellers claimed it was “wrong” that voters only had one day of voting.

People who echoed this sentiment said the queues were too long and the voting process painfully slow at some polling stations.

New Era observed that most polling stations had long queues throughout the day of voting.

Polling officials said some people arrived at polling stations as early as 12 midnight although polling stations only opened at 07h00.

“People started coming from 12 midnight,” said Tulela Namupolo, who presided over the Havana Baptist church polling station on Friday.

When New Era visited the polling station just before noon, the queue was long with voters bracing the scorching sun.

Namupolo however said the process was fast although many she observed were not familiar with the use of EVMs.

“A lot of people were not educated on how to use the EVM so we had to tell them how to use it,” Namupolo said.

“It’s the first time that people voted using the electronic voting machines (EVMs). The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) should have held the elections over two days. Those machines are slow. Many people had to go and vote at other polling stations where there were not so many queues,” said Saima Mweshininga.

Simon Shilongo said when polling stations opened in the Havana informal settlement everything seemed to be in order.

“I don’t know who is to blame for this. One day of voting is not necessarily a problem. But the verifying machine was very slow. The EVMs were not that much of a problem,” said Shilongo.

Fillemon Tshigweda said long queues discouraged many people from voting.

“Many of those who turned up to vote were the youth and women. The men did not turn up in numbers. They only went to the polling stations just before closing time and then just to complain that the queues were long and also instigated fights,” he said.

“It was a big mistake to hold elections only in one day. Many people were discouraged by the long queues and ended up not voting because they did not want to wait for three hours,” said another respondent that requested anonymity.

He said he went home at 03h00 because the queues were too long. “I was laughing at my husband when he left to go and camp at the polling station. By 09h00 he was home. I later regretted because when I went to vote I only came home in the morning at 02h00. I was driving around looking for a polling station where there were not many people. But it appeared most polling stations had long lines. One day is not enough to vote and political parties lost many votes. Some people were saying they will not stand in long queues because they apparently don’t eat elections,” said a woman who also did not want her name mentioned in this report.

“In future they should also increase the number of polling stations,” said Mweshininga.

Even though most drinking holes did not operate on Friday as per decree, Tshigweda and Mweshininga said many people consumed alcohol behind closed doors.

“It’s true that many shebeens did not open for business on Friday but they were drinking behind closed doors,” said Mweshininga. “That is why there were so many drunk people at polling stations trying to create disorder,” added Tshigweda in support of Mweshininga.

The head of the African Union observation mission to Namibia, Fatuma Ndangiza, said 15 percent of the observed polling stations visited by the African Union election observer mission stopped at least once because of technical issues with the use of the voter verification of the EVM system.

“These issues delayed counting in some stations by up to one hour, but is some cases were resolved quickly. In all cases, normal voting resumed after the issue was resolved,” said Ndangiza.

The head of the SADC electoral observation mission, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said at a press conference yesterday that the elections were generally peaceful, credible, free and fair because there was nobody who was chased away, apart from technical errors which the ECN admitted to.

By Alvine Kapitako

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