Windhoek — Debate over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the issue of their reliability in the upcoming Presidential and National Assembly elections remains a hot topic.
Some opposition parties alleged that EVMs can be tampered with and demanded that the Electoral Commission of Namibia reintroduce the ballot paper voting system.
Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani yesterday joined the debate, saying he was in the process of seeking an audience with Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chairperson John Magufuli over the issue.
"I am going to Tanzania to meet President Magufuli either on Monday or Tuesday next week, depending on his availability. I am going to present our case to him that the Namibian election under EVMs cannot be trusted," Venaani told journalists in Windhoek.
He said the use of EVMs without the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) will not lead to credible election results.
Venaani said he has repeatedly demanded ECN should make sure that EVMs be fitted with a VVPAT device to ensure fairness during elections.
The paper trail facility allows the verification of votes through a receipt that serves as proof that the vote cast was for a particular political party or candidate.
"We will not enter an election off a pre-fixed system where one party is already fixing to get 75 percent of votes while we know that the current political climate on the ground will never guarantee any political party to get 75 percent of votes in the country," he stressed.
ECN has repeatedly challenged any stakeholder or any member of the public to come forth and demonstrate how the EVMs can be manipulated to favour or disadvantage a political party or candidate.
The ECN is, however, battling a crisis of credibility following reports that EVMs 'loaned' to Swapo in 2017 have still not been returned to the electoral body.
The situation has been widely criticised by opposition leaders and commentators who feel the controversy around the missing EVMs raises serious questions about the credibility of the general election set for 27 November.
The ECN confirmed this week that four control units as well as two ballot units were reported missing after they were 'loaned' out to the Swapo Party Elders Council elections committee in 2017.
The electoral body also confirmed that a police investigation is underway to determine the whereabouts of the missing devices, while declining to comment on the issue further.
Political commentator Graham Hopwood viewed the disappearance of several EVMs as very worrying, saying both the ECN and Swapo need to be held accountable.
"The ECN also needs to explain why they have effectively covered this up for two years? How can we be sure that more EVMs have not gone missing? I simply don't accept the ECN explanation that they cannot comment further as the matter is under police investigation. They need to account to the electorate," he remarked.
Namibian opposition political parties has in the past threatened to sue the ECN for not allowing them to publicly test Indian-made machines for possible defects.
Venaani and other opposition leaders, including Rally for Democracy (RDP) president Mike Kavekotora, have been vocal against the use of EVMs in national elections.
The EVMs were introduced in 2014 to replace the paper ballots.
The ECN spent over N$60 million to acquire the machines from India.
In neighbouring Botswana, President Mokgweetsi Masisi late last year decided to suspend the use of EVMs during that country's election that took place on Wednesday.
This follows complaints by opposition parties of that country that the use of EVMs without a verifiable paper trail would compromise the credibility of the elections.