Namibia: Voting Machines Go Missing

e-Voting Machines used in Namibian elections.

Security agents are said to be working around the clock to locate at least three electronic voting machines (EVMs) believed to have gone missing two years ago, The Namibian has established.

The EVMs reportedly went missing during the Swapo Party Elders Council's 6th elective congress held at Outapi in July 2017.

The Namibian was reliably informed that an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the EVMs has been concluded.

According to sources, the returning officer at that election, Sacky Shanghala, booked out the EVMs at the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) to be used during the elders council's elective congress. It is not clear how many voting machines were taken out, but it is believed that not all of them found their way back to the ECN.

Sources say one of the EVMs got lost at Otjiwarongo while being transported to the election venue.

Namibian Police (Nampol) spokesperson, deputy commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi confirmed the matter to The Namibian yesterday.

"Yes, I can confirm that such an incident took place in 2017. But I think further enquiries should be addressed to the ECN. A member of the public picked up the machine, and took it to the Otjiwarongo Police Station.

"What I understand is that the machine was then returned to its owner - which is the ECN," Kanguatjivi said.

According to sources, law-enforcement agents compiled a preliminary report on the matter, which was submitted to Namibian Police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga two weeks ago.

The Namibian is informed that after thorough scrutiny, Ndeitunga is expected to submit the report to Anti-Corruption Commission director general Paulus Noa for further investigation into the matter.

He, however, said such matters are better dealt with by the police, as it is a criminal investigation.

"It is yet to be brought to my attention. In any case, this sounds like a criminal investigation because those are machines that were found thrown around. To my knowledge, it is therefore a police matter," Noa added.

Namibia is heading for presidential and National Assembly elections on 27 November.

The EVMs were introduced in 2014 as an efficient and reliable way of voting, replacing the paper ballots. The ECN spent over N$60 million purchasing the machines from India.

ECN chairperson Notemba Tjipueja told The Namibian yesterday that she will not take telephonic interviews because her views had been misrepresented before.

For his part, all that Theo Mujoro, the chief electoral officer at the ECN could say, was that he will "get to the bottom of the matter".

Human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe told The Namibian that the EVMs' disappearance raises suspicions that the election could be rigged, which would question the integrity of its outcome.

"It is the most serious attack on our democracy that such an important device is stolen. Of course, it is the type of device stolen so as to rig the elections. It is not stolen for any other purpose.

"Whatever the outcome of the election, its integrity will be questioned, unless the law-enforcement agencies and the ECN deal with this matter decisively and appropriately," Tjombe said.

Opposition leaders have been calling for the introduction of the verifiable paper trail, saying the EVMs can not be trusted.

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