Friday 18 June 2021
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Swapo undecided over EVM usage at Congress

There is indecisiveness amongst the ruling party ranks as to whether the party should make use of electronic voting machines at its congress later this year or not. Swapo secretary-general Nangolo Mbumba says the ruling party is yet to decide on whether or not to use electronic voting machines (EMVs) at congress where all positions will be voted for. Despite calls for the use of EVMs at November’s congress, it comes as a surprise that Swapo is undecided on the use of the voting machines after pushing for the use of the same at during the 2014 Presidential and National Assembly elections, several by-elections and Swapo Party Elder’s Council’s (SPEC) sixth ordinary congress in Omusati region.
The Patriot has learnt through sources privy to the ruling party power corridors that there are calls by some senior members to use EVMs to decide Swapo’s fate for the next five years.  However, The Patriot has also learnt that some members of the ruling party are unhappy with the prospect of using EVMs at the much-talked-about congress due to lack of trust in the machines that were acquired from India four years ago.  Over the years, opposition political parties have questioned the voting machines’ reliability, saying a possibility exists for the machines to be tampered with or pre-programmed to favour a certain political party or candidate. The ongoing debate on whether or not to use the voting machines in the corridors of the ruling party raises eye-brows and speaks to the claims by the critics who have long held the view that the Swapo party-led government deliberately introduced the machines to rig elections. Responding to this publication via SMS, Mbumba acknowledged that EVMs were used at the Swapo Party Elders’ Council’s (SPEC) sixth ordinary congress earlier this month.“EVMs were used by SPEC in Outapi and worked well. As for the Swapo Congress, we have not yet decided on those type of issues [whether or not to use EVMs],” Mbumba responded.
When approached for comment, Swapo’s deputy secretary-general Laura Mcleod-Katjirua said she is unaware of talks around the use of EVMs at the highly anticipated congress. “It (use of EVMs) is a lie, there is nothing like that. I have no idea and I am hearing it from you,” charged McLeod-Katjirua. When asked if the party might consider the use of the voting machines at its internal elections, the Khomas governor responded: “It depends. If the EVMs are coming from the directorate of elections (Electoral Commission of Namibia) and they are able to lease them out, there should be no problem (with using them)…Unless you were saying we (Swapo) are exploiting the situation. For example, if you can lease from the election directorate and we can pay, then why can we not use it? This means, anyone else (other parties) can also lease these machines.” In the past, the Electoral Commission of Namibia was warned against using voting machines which have no voter verification paper audit trail.
The paper trail facility allows the verification of votes through a receipt that serves as proof that the vote cast was for a particular political party or candidate.  As such, the presence of a paper trail creates room for transparency and guards against fears that the machines may be pre-programmed. Earlier this year, Rally for Democracy and Progress secretary-general Mike Kavekotora questioned the credibility of the 2014 Presidential and National Assembly Elections in which EVMs operated without an audit paper trail during President Hage Geingob’s second State of the Nations Address.  However, Geingob at the time shrug off Kavekotora’s question by challenging the latter to go to the courts if indeed the allegations around potential rigging of elections were founded.

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