In an unprecedented outburst, the Swapo top leadership has rebuked comments made by former Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) chairperson Notemba Tjipueja over the disputed Ndonga Linena election, which has been declared null and void and a recount ordered.
In an interview with Namibian Sun last week, Tjipueja was quoted as saying the electoral body wrongly declared the Swapo candidate Kampota Shiwana as duly elected.
However, Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa took issue with this pronouncement, saying it was “reckless, far-fetched” and has “compromised the ECN as a truly professional body”.
Shaningwa was speaking during a media briefing of the political bureau regarding the irregularities observed in the Ndonga Linena regional council election and consequently the High Court orders yesterday in Windhoek.
A recent High Court ruling ordered a nullification of the Ndonga Linena constituency election following a legal challenge by the All People’s Party (APP).
In June this year, the APP succeeded in securing a court order that compelled the ECN to furnish the party with the 57 rejected ballots from the elections but ECN only managed to provide four of the 57 rejected ballots on 12 July.
The APP claims irregularities took place during the elections, which saw Shiwana securing 1 073 votes, compared to APP’s Djami Balthazar Daniel, who obtained 1 061 votes. Shiwana was declared duly elected.
APP challenged the outcome of the 25 November 2020 regional council elections and said their agents observed on the day of the elections that 40 of the rejected ballots were in favour of their candidate.
They said the presiding officer refused to record their objections.
The swearing-in of Shiwana was also declared null and void. A ballot recount has since been ordered and will take place this Thursday.
The elections took place last year November during the regional council and local authority elections.
According to Swapo, the counting of ballots was done by party agents leading to the election of Shiwana.
“Surprisingly, barely 10 months after elections, the same ECN is receding its own decision following the High Court ruling. The pronouncement done by ECN, even before the recount have taken place, as per the court order, left much to be desired,” an angry Shaningwa remarked.
Shaningwa claimed that the Swapo party seal was unsealed by persons not known to Swapo and its agents were not invited to observe the process.
According to Shaningwa, there were only four ballot papers for APP and the Swapo party was not invited to remove, unseal or cut its seal from such boxes.
“The question is how the ECN did and APP managed to open the ballot boxes without the presence of Swapo party agents. The integrity of that election is compromised. The Electoral Act affords election agents of registered political parties, registered organisations or independent candidates to add their seals to ballot boxes as contemplated in the subsection. These are serious and material proof that there are irregularities committed here. While the High Court had ordered accessibilities to the election materials, the High Court has in no way ordered the breaking of the law. We do not know what transpired there since our party agents were not present when the stored ballot boxes were unsealed,” she fumed.
She further said Swapo would not participate in the ballot recounting process.
“The Swapo party shall vehemently refuse to be used as a tool for validating unlawful acts. If ECN could not invite the Swapo party when they accessed officially sealed materials as stipulated in the law, why should it be important now for Swapo to participate in activities where provisions of the law have been broken and not adhered to, as stipulated in the electoral law?” she questioned.
“The Swapo party will not take part in this process of the recount as the credibility of the Ndonga Linena regional council election appears to be compromised and there seems to be a well-calculated agenda against the Swapo party. The alleged words of the outgoing chairperson have already prejudiced the Swapo party. Swapo party will therefore only participate if real credible processes aimed at rectifying the wrongs done in Ndonga Linena are undertaken, such as a full re-run of the election process. The Swapo party political bureau would like to equivocally rebuke, reject and denounce such malice and irresponsible alleged statements with all the contempt they deserve.”
Approached for comment, ECN’s chief electoral and referenda officer Theo Mujoro said, “the ECN will fully comply with the court order as handed down by the Electoral Court on 13 September 2021.
“Logistical arrangements are currently being put in place to ensure a transparent and credible recount process in line with the court order. We have noted the press release issued by the Swapo party touching on several issues. A comprehensive response will be provided tomorrow (today) to address the concerns raised and to share detailed information regarding the recount exercise,” he explained.