New Era (Windhoek)

26 October 2012

Namibia: Swapo Hails Court Ruling

Windhoek — Swapo Party Secretary General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana yesterday told New Era that she was not surprised by Chief Justice Peter Shivute's decision to bring an end to the opposition parties' attempt to have the 2009 National Assembly election annulled.

The three-and-a-half hours marathon judgment by Chief Justice Shivute ended in defeat for the eight applicants, after he dismissed the case and ordered the eight applicants to pay the legal costs of the Swapo Party during the appeal.

"This must be a good example to all those political parties that will attempt to appeal the outcome of elections in the future. Now they were ordered to pay because they pursued the case with insufficient evidence. I am really not surprised by the verdict because the Supreme Court upheld the position that Swapo did not do anything wrong," said Iivula-Ithana.

The Swapo Party SG hailed the country's judicial system for being independent, after it dismissed the appeal and ordered the eight applicants to pay the ruling party an undisclosed sum of money.

The opposition Rally and Democracy for Progress (RDP) has already spent close to N$3 million in legal fees during the two-year duration of the appeal case.

With RDP president Hidipo Hamutenya nowhere to be seen, the party hastily convened a press conference at the Tintenpalast, where RDP's vice-president Steve Bezuidenhoudt reacted to the verdict.

Media representatives could be heard chatting among themselves, asking each other how the RDP managed to compile a reaction so soon after the verdict, suggesting the RDP might have preempted the verdict.

"We accept the court's verdict with a heavy heart because we expected it to be in our favour. Those used to manipulating elections must be aware because we will present to the public all the evidence that we have gathered so that they can judge for themselves," said Bezuidenhoudt.

"The Swapo regime is taking people for granted, and everyone must know that their regime has reached its expiry date," said the RDP vice-president.

"Despite today's verdict, we still have respect for our courts. We however still have to do a debriefing session with our legal team," he said.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission of Namibia [ECN] has vowed to improve on its service delivery after being blasted by the Supreme Court for making "avoidable administrative errors" during the 2009 election. However, the court found that the administrative errors made by presiding officials at polling stations did not affect the final outcome of the election.

ECN chairperson Notemba Tjipueja refused to admit that the protracted appeal case tarnished the image and credibility of the organisation. "The court appeal does not in any way tarnish our integrity and credibility, in fact it indicates democracy whereby any political party that is not satisfied with the election results can appeal through the courts of law. Elections are dynamic everywhere, not only in Namibia," she said.

This application will not in any way affect the relationship between the ECN and the opposition parties, because we will continue consulting them and convening political liaison meetings to ensure that we have credible elections, said Tjipueja. "The court proved beyond reasonable doubt that the administrative errors we have committed did not affect the outcome of the elections in any way and that there was no electoral fraud," she said.

As for the way forward, Tjipueja said the ECN will extend its structures and decentralise most of its services. "At the moment ECN only has 40 employees, therefore we need to expand to ensure that the voting system is credible," said the chairperson.

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