The SADC Electoral Observer Mission to Namibia has described the country as a “young, vibrant democracy”, while at the same time calling for political tolerance among the country’s parties ahead of the November 28 general election.
A total of 90 regional observers will be in the country ahead of the polls, with 74 already in the country.
The SADC Electoral Mission to Namibia has set up its headquarters at the Safari Hotel in Windhoek, where it was officially launched yesterday by the head of the SADC mission, SA Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
She stressed that the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) must take full responsibility to ensure that the elections are not compromised and said that no observer mission can take its place.
According to her the SADC mission yesterday met with the ECN during which they were officially informed about the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and briefed about voter education that has been undertaken in the country, especially in the rural areas.
“We have taken note of the recently approved constitutional amendments and the new Electoral Act which will govern the elections on November 28,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
She added that although the ECN conducted voter education, it is also the responsibility of political parties to ensure that their supporters have proper information on the elections and how to vote.
“This fifth democratic election which Namibia is embarking on since it has gained independence bears testament to a consistent democratic practice by way of holding regular elections,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.
According to her Namibians have shown commitment to a multiparty democracy and elections are an important exercise in pluralism and an essential element in the democratic process.
“The holding of regular, free and fair elections is one of the most important indicators that gauge the quality of democracy and need to be satisfied in order to achieve consolidation.”
Nkoana-Mashabane said observers will be deployed in all the regions of Namibia.
The SADC Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration, Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo, said SADC considers the role of elections as a learning process for all member countries through which to advance their electoral systems.
According to him the members of the SADC mission will consult with stakeholders such as the ECN, other electoral groups, diplomatic missions, government institutions, political groups, the media, civil organisations and faith-based groups.
Nkoana-Mashabane further said the SADC mission will gauge the elections against criteria to asses full participation of the citizens in the election process, regular intervals for elections as provided for by the national constitution, equal opportunity for all political parties to access state media, independence of the judiciary and impartiality of electoral institutions, as well as acceptance and respect for the election results by political parties when proclaimed to have been free and fair by competent National Electoral Authorities.
Furthermore the SADC mission will be informed about the voter registration process, existence of an updated and accessible voter roll, location of polling stations in neutral places and timely announcement of the election date to ensure free and fair elections.
“Notwithstanding the fact that elections are a competitive activity SADC encourages the people of Namibia and the political and electoral stakeholders to exercise political tolerance,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.
“We wish Namibians a successful election and may the best candidate win.”
On November 30, the SADC Mission will present a preliminary statement on the electoral process.
The Namibian Sun