ECN CEO hopeful disqualified for failing to declare Swapo ties

Martin Endjala

The Electoral Commission of Namibia has disqualified Michael Katjirari Tjivikua, who was part of the shortlisted candidates for the position of Chief Electoral and Referenda Officer, for failing to declare that he was a member of the Swapo Party Think Tank.

Tjivikua’s affiliation with the governing party is deemed to question the Commission’s impartiality and independence, which might endanger the public’s confidence in the Commission if he is selected.

“The Commission is of the opinion that you did not give a declaration of all relevant information in your documents or Curriculum Vitae, and instead you applied your own discretion not to disclose this information, which could have helped the Commission and you in terms of this proceedings. We cannot continue interviewing you for this process any longer, you are hereby disqualified,” said the ECN Chairperson Elsie Nghikembua last week Friday during the public interviews.

Tjivikua’s position in Swapo was made known to the ECN by the Chief Whip of the Popular Democratic Movement and Member of Parliament Elma Dienda, who objected saying that one of the requirements was that the candidates must not have any high political profile.

She said that Tjivikua was a Swapo Party Think Tank Member between 2021-2022 and that given his background, he should not be allowed to contest for the ECN Chief Electoral and Referenda position.

Dienda said she is concerned that should he emerge as the successful candidate, the impartiality and fairness of the ECN will be compromised and this will further raise doubts.

“You are in conflict, as this is a conflict of interest given your affiliation with Swapo Party, you will set the tone inside ECN, given your history of policy making, this erodes the independence of ECN,” said the MP.

She stated that public confidence is essential in the country’s democracy, however, this may be eroded, hence her stance that it is prudent that the ECN hires someone who is not biased.

Furthermore, she added that the risk in hiring Tjivikua will compromise the Commission, a body she said is entrusted with the country’s democratic voting rights by electorates.

According to the ECN Act in terms of the objection, the person who is objecting, must be a registered voter and appear before the commission.

Dienda further questioned the commission as to whether or not it looked into Tjivikua’s history upon submitting his application.

She stressed that Tjivikua’s application should not have made it to the shortlisting process, had the Commission done its due diligence.

Tjivikua said that his role in the Swapo Party Think Tank had already expired and that it was a mere technical advisory position.

“My entire career I have been impartial in everything I do, I applied it when dealing with my students and in my administrative duties. I do not discriminate. I did not consider the position as a high profile position as stipulated by the ECN act,” explained Tjivikua.

Nghikembua added that only one female candidate applied for the CEO and Referanda position, but that she did not meet the criteria in terms of the years of experience.

The remaining shortlisted candidates are Oscar Simasiku Muyatwa, Helmuth Nawaseb, Petrus Shaama and Vincent Ntema Sazita.

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