Army to Fly Polling Officials to Remote Villages

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has roped in the services of two army helicopters to ensure that about 350 voters living in areas not accessible by road in 12 villages in the Kunene Region cast their votes on polling day.

The villages, which are situated in Epupa Constituency, are not accessible because there are no roads leading to those areas and due to the mountainous nature of that part of the region.

Inhabitants of these villages do not have access to health services, schools and most pensioners and orphans do not receive monthly state grants.

The 12 villages are Sierra Cafema, Skeleton Coast Safari, Otjavaja, Okakora, Otjimborombonga, Ehekeratjitindi, Otjahawe, Owena, Otjiheke Tjangukutu, Onjezu, Oroviheke and Orokaue.

ECN officials in the region say there will be no fixed polling stations in any of these villages, but they will be serviced by two teams of polling officials who will be mobile during the one-day polls.

“These people are very nomadic and they move a lot because they are in constant search for water and grazing for their animals, hence the teams will be mobile. The helicopters will fly around the area and land where groups of people are seen,” said ECN Assistant Regional Coordinator for Kunene Region, Eben Xoagub.

Xoagub said each helicopter will transport three electoral officials and a police officer.

“We requested that they send helicopters with more sitting space but this did not happen. We just have to do with the two given to us,” he said.

Meanwhile, the region’s voter education officer Santos Muhenje is confident that the additional efforts through the voter education campaign will lure more voters to the November 28 polls.

“This time around you can see that as ECN we have placed much more emphasis on voter education in order to eradicate voter apathy,” he said.

Muhenje said the vastness of the region and distance between villages has been the greatest challenge during the ongoing preparations that will end three days before polling day.

Another challenge is also the limited network coverage across the region, which he says makes it difficult for officials to communicate with the central command in Opuwo.

“Some of the teams are forced to have extra fuel tanks on hand because of the distance they have to travel. When people go out into the field we lose communication and all we can do here at the office is hope that they arrive at the various destinations without any problems,” he said.

He also lamented the nomadic ways of Kunene’s rural communities: “One moment the people are in a certain area, but when the voter education teams pitch for sessions, they find that those people have moved to other areas already – these are just some of the challenges the officials have to endure to make sure that all inhabitants are well prepared for the elections,” Muhenje said.

Over 1.2 million Namibians will vote during the general elections on November 28.

Source : New Era