The outcome of the November 2019 election challenge, whose judgement was handed down by the Supreme Court this Wednesday, has been met with mixed reactions, and rightly so.
The Supreme Court’s judgement, despite ordering the use of paper trail in every election to be conducted through electronic voting machines (EVMs), refused to annul the outcome. According to the five-member panel, whilst the transparency and credibility of the election was somewhat compromised by the lack of a verifiable paper trail, the question to answer is whether it impacted adversely on the electorate’s right to vote.
In the eyes of the judges, the applicants did not tender sufficient evidence in this regard. Then regional, local government and housing minister Charles Namoloh had in 2014 not put the sections pertaining to the paper trail in operation and when this was challenged, the High Court upheld the minister’s determination and sanctioned the use of EVMs without a paper trail.
The judges further said the minister plainly exceeded his powers to selectively put in force the power to use EVMs without the conditions placed by the legislative for their use. Namoloh’s decision has now come back to haunt the ECN, particularly its commissioners and chief administrator Theo Mujoro, who are now also being asked to resign from their positions.
Certainly, our democracy, albeit still in its infancy, has been tested by this election challenge judgement. Interestingly, it comes just two days after the top court in Malawi overturned the 2019 vote, which had declared Peter Mutharika as president. The 2019 vote in Malawi has now been dubbed the “Tipp-Ex election” in reference to Tipp-Ex being used on some of the tallying forms sent in by polling stations.
Disastrous! The Malawi constitutional court judgement was historic, considering that it is was only the second time in history that an African court has annulled a presidential vote and ordered a fresh election. In 2017, the Kenyan court authorities had also ordered a fresh vote.
In our case, it was really refreshing to see the Supreme Court hearing the matter on a basis of merit, justifying the unprecedented and massive interest generated during proceedings, including commentary on social media platforms.
Electoral integrity is under threat in many parts of the world – but more especially in Africa, where judges are seemingly influenced and coerced into rubber-stamping elections amid claims of irregularities.
But this was clearly not the case in our country, as our democracy was put clearly put to the test. We may not have the same depth of institutional checks and balances compared to countries in the western world. However, the conduct of the Supreme Court, more so in this case, reinforced the functioning of our democracy. It is now incumbent on us to forge a new way in building a better Namibia, including for the future generations to come. Namibia is indeed all we have.