Elderly Caught in Web of Political Deceit

The leader of the obscure National Democratic Party (NDP) Martin Lukato appears so desperate that he recently used political deceipt to “nominate” pensioners way past their prime to unknowingly stand as candidates for the newly proclaimed Bukalo Village Council.

Accusations are that Lukato nominated elderly pensioners among them a visually impaired person as “candidates” for the election of the village council.

Lukato in turn claims the aged NDP candidates made a U-turn after being intimidated by his political rivals.

The pensioners who are in the sunset of their lives have cried foul saying their nomination was done deceiptfully by the former police officer whose little-known political party only surfaces during election time before it again vanishes from the scene.

A handful of illiterate elderly residents of Bukalo, three of them women who are all octogenarians (someone aged between 80 and 89) and an 87-year-old visually impaired man, were apparently duped into handing over their voter cards to Lukato who in turn registered them as candidates without their consent for the upcoming local authority election slated for this coming Friday.

A campaign poster seen by this reporter and signed by Lukato lists the names of the elderly he claims are “ready to stand as councillors in the upcoming local authority election”.

According to Patricia Milinga, one of those who claim to have been duped into joining the party, Lukato asked permission to conduct a meeting under a tree in her village before people were given forms to fill in and told it does not matter what party they belonged to.

“I was seated in my village when he came here. It was the first time I saw this man. He wanted to conduct a meeting under a tree and all of a sudden started distributing forms for us to fill in. How can you recruit someone you have just met as a candidate?” asked Milinga.

Rosemary Kazwele, 82, one of the elderly women and a sister to Diamond Matongo, the father of liberation struggle hero, Greenwell Matongo, narrated that Lukato approached her asking for her voter’s card and ID document.

“He told me that he was registering me to vote for the councillors. He told me that it did not matter what political party I belonged to … Then we just heard that our names were pasted all over as candidates. Look at me with my grey hair, can I even stand as a councillor?” complained Kazwele.

“We were just told to give him our voter’s card thinking it was the Swapo Party. I don’t even know this man. We were only told about his party later on,” said Kazwele.

According to the women, upon communication with Lukato he agreed to go back to Bukalo to resolve the issue but he has not done what he promised.

Approached for comment, Lukato however denied he used deceit to get anyone to join his party adding that Namibia is a democratic state and that his party is open to all.

“Our constitution also allows every citizen to stand as a candidate as long as they are 18 and above. I went to Bukalo to mobilise and about 25 members joined the party. Among them were the young and old and it’s from them that we chose our candidates,” said Lukato who denied allegations he deceitfully nominated the illiterate elderly as NDP village council nominees.According to him, the elderly candidates were told about every intention of his party but they backtracked after they received “threats” from his political rivals.

“There were reports of intimidation at Bukalo. We did a door to door campaign and explained to them fully about our campaign and they agreed to hand over their voter cards. We did not force anyone. The person who is threatening people is known to the police. He even calls me every day,” stated Lukato.

Lukato further accused the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) of failing to inform his party about the withdrawal of his candidates.

“The ECN was supposed to inform us about this issue but they never did. They just told us the candidates had a concern but never revealed to us what that concern was. We have not gotten any statement from the ECN on this issue,” he said.

The returning officer for the Bukalo election Afred Mbukusa stated his office was aware of the issue and a letter was written and handed over to the ECN but that it was recommended each complainant should write their own letter accompanied by a police declaration stating their withdrawal.

Mbukusa further stated that the ECN does not have the mandate to question the legitimacy of a candidate filed by a political party, adding that it only looked at whether the deadline for submitting the names of the candidates, which was 07 to 22 July, was met and that the candidates fall within the local authority area concerned.

“The political party is the one with power of choosing which candidates it wants. Once the nominees reach our office we cannot question them over their candidates as long as they meet our requirements,” elaborated Mbukusa.

Bukalo settlement, recently proclaimed a village council is looking for local authority councillors to run the affairs of the village council.

Four political parties – Swapo, CoD, DTA and NDP – are contesting the election even though it is not clear whether the latter will really take part.

Each political party is required to file the names of five candidates among them women.

Source : New Era