Thursday, November 27, 2014

Namibian: Fresh bid to stop tomorrow's elections

WITH just 24 hours before the national elections, the RDP and the Workers Revolutionary Party yesterday launched an appeal against the Windhoek High Court verdict, which dismissed their bid to stop the elections.
In both the High Court application and the appeal, the litigants with the support of August Maletzky's African Labour and Human Rights Centre cited the Electoral Commission of Namibia and the government as first and second respondents.

However, a third litigant, the Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), have also thrown their weight behind the two parties in their last attempt to stop the elections in the Supreme Court.

NEFF national coordinator Kalimbo Iipumbu confirmed that they are now part of the litigants, while ECN lawyer Sisa Namandje also confirmed that they were served with the appeal papers yesterday.

Namandje, however, said the appeal will not have any effect on tomorrow's elections, after High Court Acting Judge Kobus Miller's verdict which dismissed the application lodged on Monday with costs.

“The status quo remains that the elections will take place as per the ruling by the High Court,” Namandje said.

In their High Court applications, the litigants pleaded for the elections to be postponed to February 2015, charging that the results from the EVMs would be rigged, but Acting Judge Miller dismissed the application saying it had come at the eleventh hour, and that some of the arguments around the voting machines were speculative.

ECN chairperson Notemba Tjipueja welcomed yesterday's ruling, while ECN director Paul Isaak said that with the backing from the High Court, they can now move on to conduct free and fair elections with no interruptions, adding that the court case was 'disturbing'.

Isaak also said the public now had no reason to doubt the competence of the Indian-made electronic voting machines after the ruling.

The verdict means that tomorrow's elections will go ahead as planned, using the disputed electronic voting machines without a paper trail.

Maletzky told The Namibian yesterday that it would be unlawful for the elections to be allowed to continue after an appeal to stop the process has been filed.

“I'm not the one saying that, but it is stipulated in the law. Once we sign that application, the elections are not supposed to go ahead,” he charged.

In a press statement yesterday, RDP president Hidipo Hamutenya supported the argument to postpone the elections.

The judgment is subject to appeal in the Supreme Court of Namibia and should, in terms of the law, suspend the elections until after the Supreme Court pronounces itself thereon,” Hamutenya argued.

Hamutenya said that despite the outcome, his party will still participate in the upcoming elections, but with fears that the credibility of the elections will be undermined because the results will not be able to be verified by the voters and the parties.

The litigants are now sitting with a massive legal bill estimated to be between N$300 000 and N$400 000 after acting Judge Miller ordered them to pay the legal costs.

“I don't come cheap,” Namandje bragged yesterday when The Namibian asked how much he was likely to charge.

Presidential affairs minister and Attorney General Albert Kawana told the South African media that although the ruling did not come as a surprise, the call by the applicants to stop the elections was a deliberate attempt to disrupt the process of democracy.

He called it a scandal.

“I'm just disappointed by the move taken by the applicants to stop the elections at this late hour,” he said, adding that the same people had reservations about the ballot papers used during the 2009 elections, as well as complaining that the old system was too complicated.

“We went out of our way as government to make things easier by purchasing these machines, now they want to turn around again and disrupt the process,” he said. “They want to claim that the EVMs are faulty without any technical knowledge about how they operate.”

Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing and Rural Development Charles Namoloh, who was the 16th respondent, said the applicants claim to represent the people yet have very few followers.

Namoloh also said that the group in question only wanted to look for reasons to reject possible defeat once the election results are announced.

The Namibian

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