Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Namibia: Elections challenge verdict today

A Windhoek High Court judge will deliver judgement today on the challenge to postpone the elections made by the Rally for Democracy and Progress and the Workers' Revolutionary Party.

Acting Judge Kobus Miller, who heard the case yesterday, said given the urgency of the application the ruling will be made not later than 10h00 today.

The application is considered a matter of urgency since there are only two days left before the Presidential and National Assembly elections are held.

The two litigants, beefed-up by the African Labour and Human Rights Centre and its director August Maltezky, lodged the application on Monday, calling on the High Court to entertain their plight to postpone the elections to February 2015.

They argue that given the electronic voting machines' lack of the required paper trail, their use in the national elections should be discontinued.

They are also accusing the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) of failing to act in the best interest of democracy by making use of the India manufactured machines despite the concerns raised.

The first respondents - the ECN and the government - are being represented by prominent lawyer Sisa Namandje, who based his argument on the fact that the applicants had ample time to bring their case before the court, but chose to do it two days before the elections.

The other respondents are the 14 political parties.

The two political parties, Maletzky and his organisation, are also calling on the court to declare all the by-elections and elections of 2014, where the EVMs were used, as null and void.

Some experts have said this might backfire on RDP in particular since the party has participated in the recent by-elections where the EVMs were used.

The court challenge comes after the three applicants said they wrote letters to the ECN expressing their reservations over the use of the EVMs both in the by-elections and general elections and that although the electoral body did not deny the allegations, they did not discontinue their use either.

"The ECN will be sending the Namibian people to the polls knowing very well that should there be a court dispute, the results of the elections will not be verified," argued Maletzky.

Yesterday, Maletzky told a packed court that in a constitutional democracy like Namibia, the proclamation to delay provisions made in the Constitution is undemocratic and might allow some parties to rob Namibians of free and fair elections. He singled out ECN and the Swapo party.

"If this urgent application is not entertained by the court, it will cause harm to the applicants and the electorate at large," he argued.

Leader of the WRP Hewat Beukes said they do not "want machines that are manufactured by foreigners to be used in the country's elections".

"We don't want somebody in India who programmed these machines to decide our future," he told the court.

Both Maletzky and Beukes dubbed the EVMs as alien since they were not locally manufactured and could not be trusted.

"Strong western democracies such as Britain, Germany and the US have banned the use of these machines in their countries," argued Beukes.

Maletzky and his team also reopened the Third Constitutional Amendment debate, which they argued was unconstitutional without public consultation.

"A failure to do so amounts to lip-service to the public," argued Maleztky, adding that there was no truth in government claiming that the public was consulted.

"It is impossible to consult the public within a period of three months," he charged.

RDP president Hidipo Hamutenya also denied that he was consulted," he said.

Namandje hit back at Maletzky saying the Constitution does not stipulate that the public should be consulted during legislative processes, although it stipulates that the public shall take part in all political activities.

He further said the application should be dismissed with costs on various grounds, including the fact that the by-elections had already been held using the EVMs.

Several opposition parties who have also been named as respondents say they are supporting the application.

"We also wanted to be part of the applicants but we were late. They have a good point," said Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters' Olsen Kahiriri yesterday.

Earlier in the day, the case was postponed to 11h30 due to the fact that not all respondents had been served with the court papers.

The Namibian

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