Polling Officials Grumble Over Pay – Threaten to Withhold Service

Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) polling officials in Windhoek, Ohangwena and Zambezi regions have refused to sign contracts, saying the N$100 a day payment is not commensurate with the responsibility of conducting national elections.

They want their pay and training allowance to be increased to at least N$200 per day, saying if their demands are not met they will not perform their electoral duties, thereby putting the polls in jeopardy.

The training officials were told yesterday they will only be paid N$100 a day after their training was concluded by the ECN across the country. Hundreds of polling officials in the Zambezi Region yesterday refused to sign contracts with the ECN over the N$100 a day, which they consider “too low”.

Instead of being sent for deployment to their duty stations yesterday polling officials in Zambezi spent the entire day haggling over pay.

The daily rate for the training of both presiding and polling officials is N$100 per day, and N$600 for work on the day of the elections and a daily allowance of N$400 for the three days prior to being deployed to various polling stations.

What seemed to irk the polling officials was the fact that some of them had to travel from far-flung towns while they also paid for their own accommodation and food. One of the presiding officers who travelled to Katima Mulilo from Windhoek complained that the “low rates” were were not sustainable for him. “I cannot come all the way from Windhoek for this. Imagine 100 dollars per day, what do I do with that? Can this cover my transport, my accommodation and food?” queried the official who requested anonymity.

Another official who also chose not to be named stated that the ECN had vehemently refused to reveal the rates when the officials were hired and only did so on the sixth day of training.

“We are saying that if ECN does not meet our demands, we will not sign contracts. We were only told about the rates on the sixth day of training. Why couldn’t they let us know beforehand so that we could make informed decisions?” asked one of the aggrieved officials.

According to information obtained by New Era, the officials are expected to be deployed to the various polling stations on Thursday.

Among other concerns cited by the officials was what they said is the breaching of Namibian labour laws by the ECN by compelling officials to work on election day and weekends without double pay as is the legal requirement.

“During the previous elections, people were getting high pay. Imagine on election day, we’re working up to 9 o’clock at night but we won’t get any overtime,” complained another official.

In a petition signed by the officials directed to the ECN Director of Elections Professor Paul Isaak in possession of New Era they demanded an increase to N$350 per day for training, N$650 per day for overtime and N$2 000 for polling day.

Officials threatened not to sign contracts should their demands for better wages not be met by this afternoon. The aggrieved ECN polling officials will meet today in Katima Mulilo on the way forward.

Several attempts to get comment from the ECN regional election coordinator Alfred Mbukusa proved futile as his mobile phone went unanswered.

However, the Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu confirmed he has been alerted on the matter but maintained his hands were tied.

“I was informed by the regional (election) coordinator but unfortunately we cannot do anything. ECN is an independent body, we cannot involve ourselves in their affairs,” said Sampofu.

The Zambezi region has over 70 fixed polling stations and close to 40 mobile polling teams.

ECN regional coordinator in Ohangwena, Hiskiel Mukete, confirmed there is a message circulating among poll officers threatening they would down tools on election day if their pay is not increased.

The regional coordinator said the message started circulating on Monday afternoon but when he spoke to the officials they would not confirm whether they would down tools on election day on Friday.

“I have received a message circulating and I gave a directive to the trainees to put their grievances on paper,” he told New Era.

Mukete said trainees are unhappy with the daily allowance and also requested ECN to increase the allowance to at least N$200.

He said poll officials refused to sign their contracts on Tuesday.

There are 1 400 polling officials for the 12 constituencies of the Ohangwena Region.

There about 130 320 eligible voters in the Ohangwena Region and 368 polling venues.

Source : New Era