Namibia: Itula's Lawyers Allegedly Harassed At Swapo HQ

15 November 2019

Lawyers representing independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula were allegedly harassed and detained by some angry Swapo members and officials at the party's national headquarters in Windhoek yesterday.

The Namibian understands that the lawyers - from law firm Henry Shimutwikeni & Co - had gone there to serve the party with summons for the case in which Itula is challenging the use of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the presidential and National Assembly elections later this month. Itula on Wednesday filed an urgent application with the Electoral Tribunal in the Windhoek district to have the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) ordered not to use EVMs in the upcoming presidential and National Assembly elections. In his affidavit, he stated that reports of missing EVMs cast doubt on the credibility of elections.

Itula said as an alternative to the removal of the EVMs from the election process, the ECN must be ordered to implement the voters verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) to function simultaneously and in conjunction with the EVMs, or to deploy competent technicians to each polling station for verification if the EVMs are to be used.

Another alternative is for the ECN to go back to the manual ballot papers voting system.

The ruling party is one of the respondents in the matter. The case is scheduled to be heard on 19 November in the Electoral Tribunal. One of the harassed lawyers who spoke to The Namibian on condition of anonymity said a Swapo official, one Konrad Sitarara, refused to accept the summons, and told them that they had been instructed by the secretary general of the party (Sophia Shaningwa) not to accept "any summons".

The lawyer said the official then started scolding them, and told them to vacate the party's premises with their summons.

After several explanations and back and forth arguments, the lawyer said, the ruling party's official then decided to block the lawyers from leaving with their vehicle, unless they take the summons with them.

"He started shouting at me, telling me to come back, but we did not go back. After that, I heard him telling the security guards to lock the main gate so that we remain on the premises. They started chasing us [on foot] up to B1 City shopping mall," the lawyer explained.

He said they waited for about two hours in the open for their vehicle to be released after they called the police for intervention.

"They refused to give back the car, unless we took the papers we had come to deliver with us. They later blocked our car with their cars. I personally feel humiliated. They detained us [... ]. They only let us go when they saw the police," the lawyer said.

When contacted for comment yesterday, Swapo's executive director, Austin Samupwa, said he was not aware of the incident because he was not in town. He was busy with the party's campaign deep in the villages, he added. Shaningwa did not respond to calls directed to her mobile phone yesterday.

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