Namibians turning up at polling booths before sunrise in an atmosphere of peace and calmness, shattered the myths of various political commentators, analysts, political scientist and donor-funded polls suggesting a lack of Namibian interest and excitement in elections.
Long queues of pensioners and young Namibians are braving the hot sun with a late run on the polls predicted in the cooler afternoon and evening temperatures.
Hundreds of young voters who became victims of campaigns to boycott the elections on social media platforms and fake news and left centres in tears because they could not register or vote in the Northern regions.
The atmosphere of peace and tolerance is a democratic monument in the first hours of voting, destroying the campaigns of a small minority to spread rumours of threatening unrest of which no sign could be found in spite of a frustrating slow process under a baking Namibian sun.
As polling stations across Namibia opened for the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections earlier on Wednesday morning, President Hage Geingob and the First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos travelled to the Mandume Primary School in the Katutura East Constituency of Windhoek to cast their vote.
In general voting got off to a smooth start despite some delays in the opening of certain polling stations and a few reported problems with the Electronic Voting Machines and other infrastructure such as generators for mobile polling stations.
Many voters got up during the early hours of Wednesday morning to avoid waiting in long queues. As polling stations opened at 07:00 throngs of people numbering in the hundreds were patiently waiting for their turn to make their voice heard.
The increased use of easily accessible social media platforms also created another aspect to the way Namibians are voting. All election and law enforcement officials involved with the voting process are under the constant scrutiny of every person with a smart phone.
The increased scrutiny means that ECN officials are very meticulous in performing their very important task of ensuring that everything goes smoothly which in some instances contributed to some delays as people tend to err on the side of caution.
The elderly and pregnant women were treated with special care as they were allowed to move to the front of the queues to cast their votes.
Voters in Oshana Region also woke up early to join the queues at various polling stations.
Jermaine Tjongarero was first person to vote at the Gabriel Taapopi Secondary School at Ongwediva. Tjongarero said that he was excited about the opportunity to cast his vote.
“The voting process is very good, and I haven’t encountered any problems,” Tjongarero said.
Some technical problems with the EVMs were reported at a small percentage of the more than 4 500 polling stations.
At the Ompumpu polling station voters had to wait for about an hour when one of the machines showed a low battery light and had to be attended to by the presiding officer before the process could go ahead.
Other technical problems encountered at a few polling stations were scanning machines used to verify voters’ cards not functioning properly which meant that ECN officials had to revert back to the manual process to allow voting to proceed.
It has been reported that a small number of older voters with outdated voting cards were not allowed to vote. It was pointed out by the ECN that voters’ cards have to be renewed every ten years.
Meanwhile, the issuing of duplicate voter’s cards at the ECN’s Oshakati office continued till around midnight on Tuesday while there were still hundreds of young people waiting in the queue when officials decided to call it a day.
It is reported that many were shedding tears as they reluctantly returned home with no prospect of participating in the elections on Wednesday.
Jaco Kleinsmith reported that voting went smoothly in Avis. He said he spent about two hours in the queue and was treated with dignity by ECN staff. He said officials are very friendly and also assisted families with small kids and pensioners.
Photos: Informanté reporting team and State House