Soldiers can register despite lack of proof of residence

KEETMANSHOOP: The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN)’s //Karas regional coordinator for the general registration of voters, Augustinus Ucham says soldiers are allowed to register to vote despite not having proof of residence.

Ucham said this in an interview with Nampa on Tuesday while responding to queries on whether there are special arrangements in place for the registration of members of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) staying in military bases as they do not have proof of residence such as municipal water bills or telephone accounts.

These documents are required for all citizens who wish to be registered for voting in the local authority elections.

“Unfortunately, proof of residence is still required for soldiers, but if some do not have it, it does not mean they will not be registered,” said Ucham.

He advised any soldier not in possession of proof of residence to find someone who is already registered for the local authority elections in their town who can declare under oath that they know the soldier, so that they can be registered.

The deponents can declare that they know the person has been staying in the town for 12 months or more, which would make them eligible to register to vote in local authority elections.

Proof of residence is a thorn in the flesh for soldiers, farm-workers and people living in the informal settlements due to their lack of municipal bills.

Defence Minister Nahas Angula has allegedly threatened to take legal action against the ECN should he receive the blessing of Cabinet to do so next week.

Angula is against the fact that soldiers and other citizens are required to provide municipal bills for registration in the local authority elections.

“My problem is that I have soldiers staying at military bases who are being turned away because they do not have those statements. The fact that the ECN is refusing to accept the previous voters’ card as evidence of residence is itself a travesty. My soldiers are being disenfranchised,” Angula was quoted as saying in local English daily The Namibian newspaper on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Ucham said soldiers who stay in the military bases at Keetmanshoop and Karasburg are not registered yet, adding that semi-fixed registration teams will be at the Keetmanshoop base from 08 to 19 February.

The defence force members are also requested to go to the nearest registration venues and register instead of waiting for the registration teams to reach their bases.

“Unfortunately, there is no special arrangement for soldiers at the Karasburg base as we only have two teams in Karasburg East. However, one team is very close to the base thus I encourage the force members to go and register,” Ucham stated.

He also said the registration process for convicted and trial-awaiting prisoners in the //Karas Region will take place from 20 to 27 February. Registration teams will visit the holding cells and prisons in different towns and villages.

Commenting further on special arrangements for the registration of members of the NDF, Ucham also said NDF and Namibian Police Force (NamPol) members, as well as pregnant women, are not required to queue when registering to vote.

This is because it is expected of ECN officials to give them preference when they are queuing at voter registration points.

“There is a policy that we cannot allow people in uniforms to stand in queues during registrations, so they are assisted first,” he said.