Ondangwa resident accuses ECN of unfairness

ONDANGWA: A resident of Omashaka location in Ondangwa, Antonio Joao says the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has been denying him the right to be an eligible voter in the country.

He said he wanted to register and be eligible to vote in the Presidential and National Assembly elections at the end of this year, but ECN officials once again did not allow him to register as a voter during the just-ended General Registration of Voters (GRV) process.

Joao, 56, is originally from Angola, but he has been living in Namibia since 25 March 1975.

He fathered eight children with his Namibia-born wife Gloria, whom he married legally on 28 May 1994.

Although Joao arrived in Namibia when he was just 17 years old, he is still not considered a citizen, as he is living in the country on a permanent residence permit issued on 30 March 1994.

Asked if he has voted in Namibia before, Joao admitted that his last participation in the Namibian voting process was during the country’s first-ever democratic elections in 1989.

“I could not vote in the other elections, because all those years I was turned away at the registration points by ECN officials who always demanded that I produce Namibian citizenship documents besides my Namibian ID,” Joao explained.

He said he was again turned away this year on the first day that he went to register at the Oshitayi ECN registration point near Ondangwa.

He went back there again on a different day and was given a voters’ card, but an ECN official and a policeman came to his workplace two weeks later and took back the voters’ card, telling him that he should not have been registered because he does not have Namibian citizenship documents.

“I want to know why I cannot qualify while so many people from Angola, who also fall in my category, registered and vote in Namibia unhindered. I abandoned my Angolan citizenship at a tender age and I believe that my 40-year stay in Namibia qualifies me to register as an eligible voter in this country,” he said

Contacted on Thursday for clarity on this issue, ECN’s corporate communications officer Vikitoria Hango told Nampa that the fact that Joao has been living in Namibia for more than 40 years does not qualify him to register as a voter.

“He will become eligible only after he obtains Namibian citizenship. The law is very clear, the ECN registers Namibian citizens who are 18 years and older and not permanent residents,” she replied.

On the allegation that some Angolans, who are in a similar position, might have been registered as voters in Namibia, Hango said: “That is but an allegation. In any case, the Electoral Act makes provision for a period during which people can raise objections about the names appearing in the Voters’ Register. People can object to the names of people that they think are not supposed to be registered at that point.”