News and Information
Voters trickle to the polls in western part of Caprivi
|November 17, 2004
| WERNER MENGES
in WEST CAPRIVI
THE wobbly state of the giant billboard greeting travellers on the road leading south-west out of Katima Mulilo is probably only a fitting comment of what lies ahead in the rural constituencies of the western Caprivi Region.
The billboard, exhorting people to get out and vote in this year's national elections, tilts dangerously on one side, appearing to be an example of the pitfalls of building one's billboard on shifty sands instead of a bedrock of support.
Political parties looking to the western part of the Caprivi Region for support may just find wise counsel in that cautionary message too.
Just like the billboard's wobbly state, voter turnout also appeared to be on a less than sure footing in the swing constituencies of Sibbinda and Linyanti to the southwest and west of Katima Mulilo yesterday.
These are both constituencies where the exodus of leading figures from communities in these parts - including former DTA leader Mishake Muyongo and Mafwe Chief Boniface Mamili - from Namibia in late 1998 were followed by record low turnouts at the polls in the 1998 Regional Council elections.
In the Sibbinda constituency only five per cent of the electorate bothered to vote in those elections, and 201 votes were all a Swapo candidate needed to be elected as the Regional Councillor for that previously DTA-held constituency.
Next door at Linyanti, only 12 per cent of the voters cast their ballots in the 1998 Regional Council elections, and again a Swapo candidate swept to victory in what had until then also been a solid support base for the DTA.
In the 1999 national elections the picture had changed, though, with voter turnout having increased significantly and with the Congress of Democrats emerging as the new majority party in both those constituencies.
With just over 3 000 people voting at Linyanti, compared to 692 in 1998, the CoD got 55 per cent of the vote in that constituency.
At Sibbinda, where a little over 2 300 people voted in 1999, compared to only 228 in 1998, the CoD drew 78 per cent of the votes.
However, if this is supposed to be CoD country both that party and the people in the area are managing to hide it very well indeed.
This area is a virtual election campaign material death zone.
The presence of polling points at some villages is the only indication that elections are actually taking place here.
Political party or candidate posters seem to be wholly absent - or at least much less visible than in the more eastern areas of the region such as in the Kabbe and Katima Mulilo Rural or Urban constituencies.
The slow pace of voting at several polling stations in the Sibbinda and Linyanti constituencies yesterday appeared to confirm this low-key approach to the elections.
At Malundu, some 50 kilometres south of Katima Mulilo, only some 65 people had voted by the early afternoon yesterday.
That village was being served by a mobile polling station, which had helped 103 voters cast their ballots in the villages of Mazoba and Muketela on Monday and another 70 voters at Kisako earlier yesterday.
At Chinchimani, the current seat of the Mafwe Royal House where another polling station in the Sibbinda constituency was based, 59 voters had cast their ballots by early afternoon yesterday, compared to the 187 voters who had passed through that station on Monday.
Closer to Katima Mulilo at Lusu - also in the Sibbinda constituency, which has 4 066 registered voters - a total of 176 people had voted in a day and a half around noon yesterday, while at Kanono 289 people had voted by about half past two yesterday.
Of those, 209 had voted on Monday already.
Kanono is one of the areas of these constituencies that has been especially affected by the political turmoil that swept through the Caprivi Region with the flight of Muyongo, Mamili and hundreds of their followers, and the armed attacks at Katima Mulilo by secessionists in early August 1999.
Kanono, for instance, is where former DTA Member of Parliament Geoffrey Mwilima - now in his sixth year of Police detention while awaiting the conclusion of his and 119 fellow high treason suspects‚ trial over their alleged involvement in a separatist movement in the region - has a home.
Linyanti nearby is where Muyongo hails from.
At Linyanti village, which falls in the constituency with the same name, the pace of voting also appeared to have been slower yesterday than on Monday.
There are 6 234 registered voters in the Linyanti constituency.
Only a small percentage of them had voted at Linyanti village itself by yesterday afternoon - close to 200 on Monday, and about another 100 in the first seven hours that the polling station was open there yesterday.
At Katima Mulilo the turnout appeared set to be much higher than in these rural areas.
The Katima Mulilo Urban constituency has 10 776 registered voters.
At the Ngweze Community Hall in the town, a total of 1 444 people had voted since Monday morning by mid-afternoon yesterday; at the Legislative Assembly Hall in the Katima Mulilo town centre, the tally stood at 1 356 at the same time, and a trickle of voters was still entering the polling points at a steady pace.
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