Namibia is to become the first African country to use electronic voting machines in a general election, after the Windhoek high court dismissed a legal challenge by an opposition political party. The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) filed an urgent court application to seek the annulment and postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled for this Friday, arguing that the machines violate Namibia’s newly amended Electoral Act because they leave no paper trail. The party was joined in its high court application by the African Labour and Human Rights Centre’s director August Maletzky and the Workers Revolutionary Party. But on Wednesday the high court rejected the claims that the use of the e-voting machines was unconstitutional and a breach of the Electoral Act. The Act stipulates that use of the machines in polling should be “subject to the simultaneous utilisation of a verifiable paper trail for every vote cast by a voter and any vote cast is verified by account of the paper trail”. It continues: “In the event that the results of the voting machines and the results of the paper trail do not tally, the paper trail results are accepted as the election outcome for the polling station or voting thread concerned.”
The RDP, Namibia’s second-largest parliamentary party, had demanded that the Electoral Commission of Namibia reschedule “transparent elections” for the end of February next year.
It also wanted the annulment of municipal elections and four by-elections held earlier this year, in which voters used electronic machines to cast their ballots. In addition, the party demanded that the electoral body should ensure that in future elections the machines should generate a paper trail for every vote cast.
AmaBhungane was unable to source the high court’s judgment. But Hamunyera Hambyuka, spokesperson for Namibia’s ruling party Swapo, said the application was dismissed, in part, because it had only been lodged a few days before the elections when there had been an opportunity to do so earlier.