Concerns That Workers Won’t Get Chance to Vote

There are widespread concerns that some shops and other businesses could be open on election day on Friday thus preventing workers from casting their votes.

On November 28 Namibians will elect a new president and members of the National Assembly. The day of elections has been declared a public holiday to allow every eligible citizen the chance to vote.

However, there are concerns that the declaration was ‘low-key and inconspicuous’ and may therefore present a chance for some employers to disregard the day as a holiday and continue with business as usual.

In the Zambezi Region many callers inundated the NBC’s Silozi service suggesting government should issue a g warning to ensure employers do not disenfranchise workers to vote if they chose to.

Callers specifically expressed concern about Chinese shops which they alleged have failed in the past to respect national holidays.

Contacted for comment the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Joeumll Kaapanda, made it clear the declared holiday is compulsory and every business establishment is required to adhere to the proclamation.

“It is a compulsory holiday. On the day every business must be closed to be able to give an opportunity to their employees to vote. Voting is a constitutional right. Until they have allowed all their workers to vote they cannot open on the day,” warned the information minister.

Zambezi Regional Governor, Lawrence Sampofu, echoed similar sentiments adding that a g statement should be issued to each and every employer in the country to adhere to the directive.

“I just spoke to the minister of information now. I appealed to him that a g statement should be issued that directs shops to be closed on the specific day,” stated Sampofu.

Meanwhile, two unidentified men were held by the police in the Zambezi Region for distributing free T-shirts appealing to voters to boycott the elections on Friday. The suspects, believed to be members of of the Caprivi Concerned Group, were found in the CBD area of Katima Mulilo on Monday when they were apprehended by the police.

They were later released on a warning.

The Caprivi Concerned Group is aocating the boycott of elections, citing what it says is the continued imprisonment of high treason accused. It also harbours a secessionist agenda.

According to Regional Police Commander, Commissioner Boniface Mukendwa, a case against the group has already been opened and investigations were at an aanced stage.

“We did not arrest them. We just called them in to explain to them that what they were doing is wrong. A case has already been opened against them and we only lacked evidence but with the distribution of T-shirts they are presenting us with evidence and arrests are imminent,” said Mukendwa.

Mukendwa further noted the act of the group constitutes a criminal offence according to the amended electoral law.

“If they continue with what they are doing, we will arrest them immediately. The electoral act as amended clearly states that if you directly or indirectly incite people not to vote, it’s a criminal offence,” said Mukendwa.

Sampofu also denounced the group stating that the police needed to act as the law was clear.

Kaapanda too was in agreement adding the incident can be pursued further by the police after the elections.

However a member of the Caprivi Concerned Group, Edwin Samati, who was not part of those held is adamant that the anti-poll group would continue mobilising and urging people not to vote, stating they were not committing any crime.

“We believe we’re not committing any crime. If there is anyone committing a crime here it is the regional police commander. We’re consulting our legal aisers to sue him for intimidation, unlawful detention and unlawful confiscation of 11 T-thirts and possible infringement of our right to freedom of expression or speech,” said Samati.

According to Samati, his group has been in consultation with the SADC election observer team on the matter as well as Namrights and T-shirt distribution will continue as well as campaigns through other mediums.

“We’re very active and are intensifying our peaceful campaign through SME’s, Facebook, T-shirts and face to face discussions with interested individuals and families. We will never beg for our rights,” noted Samati.

Source : New Era