Elections: 350 000 register, 400 000 shack dwellers in limbo

There are about 1.3m Namibians above 18 years and eligible to vote according to the 2011 census. Of this number, about 350 000 had registered countrywide, by last Saturday, the ECN confirmed.
However, over 400 000 Namibians living in shacks and much of Namibia’s informal settlements are disadvantaged from registering for local authority elections, where it is mandatory to produce municipal accounts, which they do not have.
Although the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has made provision that this quarter of the population can bring along people to give sworn statements at voter registration points saying they are permanent residents in their constituencies, this process has slowed down the voter registration exercise, creating loopholes.
ECN director of operations, Theo Mujoro, says the proof of residency requirement through water bills, in which a citizen should have lived in an area for one year, is based on the Constitution and therefore not easy to get rid of.
Article 111, Section 3 of Namibia’s constitution states, ‘Persons shall be qualified to vote in elections for Local Authority Councils if such persons have been residents within the jurisdiction of a local authority for not less than one year immediately prior to such elections if such are qualified to vote in elections for the National Assembly.’
This presents a nightmare for the ECN whose voter registration exercise ends in March.
Says Mujoro, “We are aware that there are people leaving on the outskirts of Windhoek who do not have municipal bills but for us to be in the confines of the law, we cannot register people at local authority level if they cannot present these bills to prove residency.”
Voters should rather make use of the remedy provided by the law, to get someone to stand in for them to register, Mujoro recommends.
The ECN is however worried that this will have an impact on the number of people who will register to vote in the coming elections but that it remains optimistic that great numbers will turn up for the registration process.
“We don’t want to speculate on any target but we are using the 2011 census statistics of Namibians who are 18 years and older as our baseline for projections.”
In 2011, the census figures revealed that 56% of the country’s 2.1m population was aged 15 and above. The age group is now all above 18 and totals 1.3m today including the 7% of pensioners, thus eligible to vote.
 In Outjo, residents living in informal settlements were last week sent home without registering because they could not provide their municipal accounts.
Local councilor in Outjo, Abraham Job, says, the town’s municipality had to intervene by driving through the townships to inform residents to go out and get someone who knows them to give a sworn statement on their behalf.