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Breakfast Conversation: Access to Information (ATI) and Elections

Access to Information Namibia (ACTION) held a Breakfast Conversation on Friday 12 April 2019. The topic of conversation was: Access to Information and Elections. The group of panellists included Mr. John Nakuto (Media Ombudsman and Lecturer at NUST), Jessy Munashimwe the Programme Officer at the electoral Commission of Namibia in the absence of Mr. Theo Mujoro, Mr Graham Hopwood a director from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), Ms. Carola Engelbrecht (Director of CATs) Tangeni Amupadhi (Editor, the Namibian Newspaper).  

The breakfast and registration commenced at 08:30 and was concluded at 09:30. The conversation proceeded with an introduction to all the panellists and was handed over to Hopwood, whom was the master of ceremonies.

The topics discussed included (but were not limited to): 

  • The meaning of Pro-active disclosure 
  • Announcement of the selection proceedings for the elections committee must be made public. 
  • Electoral Act-the established procedure on how to access electoral information with certainty and clarity  
  • Access to information and Political Party funding – “is Namibia sold to the highest bidder, was the case with South Africa under former President Jacob Zuma’s rule.”
  • Accessing the training manual for Electoral Officials was an extremely difficult task for Ms. Carola Engelbrecht who mentioned that “not everybody is willing to go to such lengths to access information” and mentioned that the Government Gazette is often inaccessible to the public.
  • Access to Information needs to be wanted.
  • Ensure a structure that citizens get the right information 
  • Understanding the mandate of the ECN-according to the rule of law  
  • Voters education should be outsourced to Civil Societies as part of their operational plan
  • The importance was highlighted of having relatable people conduct the voter’s education programs, and also to have the voter’s education manuals in the different languages
  • Summarising the electoral act in layman’s language in order to make it more comprehensive.
  • If one would like to conduct voter’s education, they must apply to the ECN for accreditation 
  • The Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters were present at the breakfast, they raised the point that the Electoral Commission of Namibia should do away with the Electronic Voters Machines (EVM) and go back to the ballot papers to avoid the rigging of votes.
  • Fact checker for accountability and, the dismissal of fake news 
  • The independence of the Electoral commission to the Presidential party was questioned, as the President determines the date of the next election and elects some of the members at the ECN. 
  • Honourable Stephanus Bezuidenhout was present at the Breakfast conversation.