By Megameno Shikwambi
The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) chief electoral referenda Theo Mujoro has flatly denied that they are hell-bent on using the controversial EVMs despite a public outcry on the credibility of the machines.
“I don’t think the commission is hell-bent. The commission has been listening to other voices, political parties and other stakeholders about specific issues surrounding the EVMs. In fact I don’t think the people that have misgivings about the EVMs are saying do away with the EVM in its entirety,” said Mujoro.
While some members of the public have expressed discomfort with the machines, Mujoro suggested that this comes from a place of ignorance.
“What we are hearing is that people are saying please introduce the voter verifiable audit trail. We have had engagements with our parties and we have explained ourselves why at this point in time the commission is not in a position to roll out the audit trail.
We have also explained to the parties that the Electronic Voting Machines in their current format are fully capable of producing a paper trail. When you listen to some of the pronouncements being made by the public, it is also very clear to us that most of them come from a position of lack of knowledge,” he said.
He also said that people were confusing the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) with the ability and functionality of the concept of the paper trail.
“We are saying that our EVMs currently, if the results of the elections at a particular polling station generated by a particular machine are disputed for any reason, any competent court can order the electoral commission to produce a paper trail which will give a clear account in terms of how the votes were cast on that particular machine. What we are saying is that as much as the commission agrees with the value that a VVPAT can add, we are saying that based on what we have seen, based on the versions of the VVPAT that we have seen and the technical glitches that we have observed we are not in a position as a responsible commission to roll out that particular technology. So we are not hell-bent on anything,” said Mujoro.
“The introduction of the EVMs was really preceded by extensive consultation between the electoral commission and all registered political parties. Let me also mention that before the introduction of the EVMs in 2014 there were extensive consultations that went for about 10 years. The political parties were part of this process, all registered parties, all parties represented in the National Assembly. And by the way it is important to also assert that the introduction of the EVMs was not because it was a nice thing to do,” he said.
The ECN boss also added that they were informed by the experiences they had in relation to ECN’s ability to manage electoral processes especially when it comes to the counting and announcing of election results.
“When you look at the long queues that we had to deal with at the time, when you look at things like spoiled ballots, rejected ballots, all of these things, the commission at the time saw it fit to look at other experiences around the world.
We have looked at Venezuela, we have looked at Brazil and we have looked at India. So it was a widely consulted process. The commission did not wake up one day and decided to introduce the EVMs,” said Mujoro.
Mujoro said in terms of evaluation as the ECN, they strongly believed that this technology had added value to processes in terms of the ability to count and announce election results at polling stations.
The commission, he said, was dodged by bad experiences back then.
“We have had a lot of complaints. In fact, political parties used to complain a lot. They used to think that the electoral commission is printing more ballot papers than is required in the process.
A lot of wild allegations were made back then. So the decision to introduce EVMs was a well thought out decision. They were consultations. The commission did not impose the EVMs on the Namibian electorate out of the blue. So there were reasons,” he said.
ECN has also come under fire for borrowing out the machines to some political parties, which has led to revelations that some machines got lost.
While the electoral body has disclosed that a police investigation was under way, the police have in turn denied existence of any such investigation, leaving ECN exposed.
Despite that, the commission’s chairperson, Advocate Notemba Tjipueya said they believed that the former CEO opened a case with the police.
This week, associate researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Frederico Links has cautioned ECN against being more transparent with the electorate as the election season picks momentum.