THE Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s court this week acquitted Lazarus Valentinus , who was in 2019 arrested on suspicion of attempting to cast his vote twice in the Presidential and National Assembly elections, due to a lack of evidence.
The 40-year-old Valentinus was arrested at a poling station set up at Ngweze Primary School. His bail, amounting to N$ 2000 was subsequently refunded. At the commencement of the trial earlier this week, nearly two years after the incident,Valentino pleaded not guilty to the charge. The voter verifier at the polling station, Kachana Matali, was also called in to testify as a State witness.
According to her, Valentinus approached her with a valid voting card but machines detected that he had already voted at a different polling station. “I told him to put his hands on the machine and it reflected that he voted elsewhere. He said it was his first time voting and proceeded to the next table for the scanning of his voter’s card. The machine rejected his card and I told him he could not proceed. Observers and presiding officers present at the polling station were called and we restarted the entire process and the machine still reflected that he voted elsewhere. He was then issued a refusal letter and he refused to sign it,” Matali testified on Monday.
She also explained to the court that the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) informed polling officers that the ink used on voter’s thumbs is visible and invisible, that if one rubs it off the machine would still detect it.
Bianca Boois, who represents Valentinus put it to the witness that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) went off even without anyone touching them, causing a stir.
The collapse of the State’s case against Valentinus came hot on the heels of cross examination by his lawyer Boois who grilled the State on the authenticity of the EVMs. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the use of EVMs without a paper trail was illegal. The application was lodged by Presidential candidate, Penduleni Itula, of the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) .
“Did you not hear that political parties took the ECN to court because of EVMs. You said the machine made a sound,”Boois said to the witness.
Matali indicated to the court that she was not sure whether or not the machine was functional. “I told him not to feel bad, that it was the machine and not me who was refusing him to vote and that I was not the one that created the machine. I also told him that it was the first time the machine was doing that. I told him that I do not know if the machine is fine or not,” Matali explained.
Nampol Reginonal Crime Coordinator in Zambezi region, Deputy Commisioner Evans Simasiku was also called to testify, according to court documents seen by this publication. Simasiku said that apart from this incident, no other double voting attempt was reported on 27 November 2019. He also explained that he was directed by the Namibian Police Inspector General, Sebastian Ndeitunga, to oversee the elections in the region. He testified that there were no physical features or visible indications to show that Valentinus had voted previously. The State did not object to the case’s withdrawal.