By Asser Ntinda
The November National Assembly and Presidential Elections will certainly bring
out the worst and best of all the institutions involved in the preparations of those
crucial elections. With political tempers flaring up so quickly and the embarrassing
U-turn by the Electoral Commission of Namibia, ECN, to withdraw its tender
for printing ballots from Namprint, one can only guess what the political ramifications
The prime mover behind all this gerrymandering is none other than the Rally
for Democracy Progress, RDP. There is only one reason why RDP has chosen to
wallow in such a mischievous and unfortunate political chicanery – RDP has finally
come to the conclusion that wining the November elections is well-nigh impossible.
That reality, painful for them, has finally sunk into their heads.
Their demand that Namprint should not print this year’s ballot papers because
it is “owned by SWAPO” and that the “link between Namprint and SWAPO
represents a conflict of interest” should be rubbished with the contempt they deserve.
This is not the first time that Namprint has successfully printed ballot papers
for our elections. It has done so impeccably in the past.
With that excellent and impeccable track record behind it, no political party, old
and new, can point out a single political mishap and accuse Namprint of having
messed up. In fact, SWAPO Party Secretary for Information and Mobilization,
Cde Jerry Ekandjo, full of humorous sarcasms as he is, was right when he told all
and sundry that RDP’s Hidipo Hamutenya in the past strenuously defended ECN’s
decisions to grant such tenders to Namprint.
At one point, he used Namprint’s “good track-record” to tell off leaders of the
opposition parties who had similar complaints like the ones he suddenly entertains
now, that their “fears about Namprint printing ballot papers were misplaced
because Namprint does not mix politics with business.” Opposition parties understood
and kept quiet. By then Hamutenya was, or so he thought, the “great man”
in SWAPO Party who could move mountains. At that point, too, he regarded
himself as more SWAPO than anybody else. He has since left SWAPO Party.
Now that he is out there in the cold and sensing a humiliating defeat next month,
his strategy now is to put the upcoming elections’ credibility into question by raising
trivial and childish issues like Namprint and its connections to SWAPO Party.
Those who do not know how Namprint has come to win such tenders may swallow
Hamutenya’s craps and take them as “genuine concerns.” Why should
Namprint mess up now that he is out of SWAPO Party when it did not do so when
he was in? A drowning man grabs at every little straw. That is the situation in
which Hamutenya has found himself.
History plays itself out, sometimes at awkward times. Hamutenya has now
cobbled together some former puppets and opposition leaders to join him in his
bid to stop Namprint from winning the tender – the same former puppets and
opposition leaders whose fears he was instrumental in allaying when he was a
SWAPO Party leader. Now he is telling them to believe what he told them not to
believe a few years ago. How can one trust such a person? Political back-paddling
is no virtue. The fears about Namprint winning that tender are not real. They have
been exaggerated to make political capital out of them.
What opposition parties fear and worry most now is not how free and fair those
elections will be. It is the humiliating defeat that is fast closing in on them that they
fear most. If they find any technical issue now, they will lay their hands on and use
it to have the elections postponed. Hamutenya’s real motive now is to punish
SWAPO Party by ensuring that the money for printing ballot papers does not go
to SWAPO Party, which he sees through Namprint.
But he knows that whether the ballot papers are printed by a SWAPO Party
company or not is irrelevant. SWAPO Party will win the elections overwhelmingly.
About that, there is no doubt. It is unfortunate that the ECN has succumbed
to some opposition parties’ simple tree to tree monkey tricks and forced itself to eat
up its own words. It should have correctly applied its mind to enable it to take a
decision informed by the reality on the ground.
I am not suggesting that Namprint should have won the tender, but the fact that
it was not even short-listed in the second round raises more questions than answers.
Some people may think that the decision was politically motivated. And
how can the ECN and the Tender Board prove them wrong, given the fact that
Namprint has, more than once, printed ballot papers and has never been found
wanting in terms of quality and meeting deadlines? In fact, Namprint has every
right to sue the ECN because it has already started the process on the understanding
that it had legally won the tender and has indeed cancelled some of its printing
contracts to concentrate on printing those ballot papers, which require maximum
security and restricted movement of people in the building.
Be that as it may. Come November 27 and 28, Namibians will go to the polls and
exercise their democratic right to vote. They will return SWAPO Party to power
with an overwhelming majority. No underhand deals by hibernators will sway
their will. They know who they are and what they want. For those voters, SWAPO
Party to them is a party of choice, not an alternative. It has been trusted and relied
on since April, 19, 1960. And that is not about to change. Political projects come
and go. But SWAPO Party is here to stay. And stay it will. The trust SWAPO Party
enjoys nationwide is earned, not bought.