NIMT students’ voters’ cards revoked at Keetmanshoop

KEETMANSHOOP: Students of the Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) in Keetmanshoop were ordered to return their voters’ cards last week.

This was apparently done because the students are from different places across Namibia, and do not reside here permanently.
Namibians wishing to register for Local Authority elections are required to prove that they had resided in their respective Local Authority areas for 12 consecutive months by providing water and electricity bills or telephone accounts from their municipal, town or village councils.

Some NIMT students stay in the hostel, while others rent accommodation outside the institution’s premises.
Officials from the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) conducting the registration of voters at the Teachers’ Resource Centre (TRC) in Keetmanshoop informed students via text messages to return their cards.

“Good day, I am a registration officer of ECN at TRC, where the registration is taking place. I need you to please return your voters’ card to the TRC today, as we have discovered some problems regarding the cards,” reads one of the text messages seen by Nampa.

The receiver of the message, who is however not a NIMT student, wanted to know why she should return her voters’ card when there is nothing wrong with it, and the sender replied “Are you not studying at NIMT? Just bring the card my dear when you are in town. We are in a big problem”.

It is not yet clear how many students returned their voters’ cards after receiving that message.

Responding to queries from this news agency on Thursday, the ECN’s voter registration coordinator in the //Karas Region, Augustinus Ucham confirmed that students were asked to return their cards.

“Yes, we asked them to return the voters’ cards because we have to rectify some problems. Some of them do not have residential addresses in Keetmanshoop. I cannot reveal any further information as the matter is being handled by our head office in Windhoek,” he stated.
On his part, NIMT Executive Director Eckhart Mueller on Monday confirmed that his students were asked to return their voters’ cards, but said they were not aware of why this was done.

“We do not want to interfere… It seems they registered the students wrongly, but we still have to hear the actual truth,” Mueller said.
He, however, expressed concern about the fact that students might not be allowed to register and vote simply because they do not permanently reside at this southern town.

“If they cannot register here, where they will register? Our students do not stay in one place for long as they come to classes and go for internships in different towns before they return again.
We need to rectify the situation and come up with a solution because they should be allowed to vote wherever they go in Namibia,” he noted.
Other senior officials at NIMT also questioned the situation, saying it might deprive students of their right to vote, especially in the presidential elections, where proof of residence in a specific town is not required.

The institution’s management indicated that their students are mature enough to understand that voters register at towns where they have resided for 12 consecutive months so that they can participate in the local authority elections.

Upon registration, voters receive one voters’ card, which they have to use for participation in both the upcoming presidential and local authority elections.

This means that if a person cannot register to vote in the local authority elections as they do not have proof of residence for a specific town, their chances of voting for a president are also affected.

A meeting between the NIMT management and ECN officials to rectify the matter is scheduled to take place here on Tuesday.
The national General Registration of Voters (GRV) started on 15 January, and will end on 02 March 2014.

Namibians are set to go to the polls towards the end of this year.