Namibia: Police to Arrest Unruly Voters

21 November 2019

THE police will arrest people who disturb peace and incite violence during the run-up and after next week's presidential and National Assembly elections.

Police deputy inspector general for operations Oscar Embubulu made these remarks yesterday in Windhoek after briefing foreign and local election observers on the security of the country in the run-up to the national elections set for Wednesday, 27 November.

He said arresting unruly voters was part of the broader contingent plan the police had put in place, in collaboration with the Electoral Commission of Namibia and the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), to ensure that activities before and after the election are conducted in a peaceful manner.

This was to ensure a peaceful election process, he added.

The NDF will be on standby on election day to defend the integrity of the country "if anything happens, more particularly during this time of incitements and threats that are coming from some people", Embubulu said.

The correctional services facilities will also be prepared to accommodate "misbehaving voters" who might be arrested for their unruly actions. Unruly behaviour would include throwing stones or threatening to beat up or kill other people because of the outcome of the elections.

"If any political party that is disgruntled or disappointed by the outcomes of the elections wants to use force, we will try to contain such situations. But once the situation becomes volatile, the NDF will come in because they are the military aid to the civil police," he explained.

According to him, the police have not recorded any incident that could be regarded as a threat to peace and stability in the country, apart from the Ondangwa and Oshakati incidents in which a group of people supporting independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula got caught up in the mix with president Hage Geingob's motorcade last weekend. This incident, Embubulu said, prompted the security apparatus to devise a contingency plan because people who were part of that mob made several derogatory remarks and threats directed at the head of state.

Such derogatory remarks included chants such as 'Hage down!', and threats to topple the president whenever he wins the elections, he added.

"People were chanting derogative statements, including that if the president wins, they will make sure that they topple him. The state security apparatus is mandated to protect the integrity of the country. We should just try to maintain the law and order that we have in the country. We should be responsible enough as political parties," the top police officer said.

When asked about statements made by other politicians, specifically by Swapo secretary general Sophia Shangingwa who allegedly told her party members to beat up Itula, Embubulu said he was only concerned with the protection of the incumbent head of state, as mandated by the Constitution.

Shaningwa was recorded at a Swapo rally in the Hardap region as telling Swapo members "dengeni oshipuka man", which literally means, "beat up the insect", referring to Itula. Embubulu, however, said the statements to arrest unruly voters were in no way a threat to peaceful voters.

He thus urged political parties and candidates contesting the elections to behave and conduct their campaigns in a peaceful manner. The police will also guard and protect the polling stations, as well as assist with the transportation of election equipment and personnel.

Embubulu said, the police will at least have two officers at every polling station, while the movement of electoral materials, including personnel countrywide, will be done under police escort.

"Security forces are as per the Constitution mandated to protect and defend the integrity of the country. We are professionals, and apolitical. Therefore, our responsibility is to protect the head of state, who was elected by the majority," he continued.

ECN chairperson Notemba Tjipueja yesterday also urged political parties and candidates contesting the elections to sign the election code of conduct to ensure that all their members and sympathisers comply with it.

She said leaders of political parties have a duty to ensure that their supporters comply with the code of conduct.

"They need to ensure that their members are not violent in any way. So, whether a political party has signed the code of conduct or not, they are still liable to comply with the code, and they can be charged with regards to the violation of the code of conduct," she stated.

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