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115 of ECN’s stolen laptops still missing, no arrests

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has confirmed that 115 of the 117 laptops stolen from its head office in Windhoek are still missing.

There have been no arrests in the case.

ECN, whose mandate is to oversee all national elections, lost 117 out of 137 laptops between November 2020 and January this year when the laptops were noted missing.

Two have since been found in a logistics store at the ECN headquarters.

ECN spokesperson De Wet Siluka told The Namibian this week that the commission hopes for a breakthrough in the matter.

However, he refused to go into detail, as the matter is under police investigation.

He added that internal disciplinary processes and procedures have been initiated against staff who have been suspended in connection with the incident.

“We are hoping for a breakthrough. Therefore, we would like to allow the law to take its course. Hence, ECN is in no position to pronounce itself on this matter. ECN will by no means make use of the missing laptops in the 2024/25 National Assembly and presidential elections, as well as the regional and local authority elections or any election or by-election as speculated,” he said.

Police national spokesperson deputy commissioner Kauna Shikwambi told The Namibian yesterday that police investigations are ongoing and no arrest has been made so far.

Like ECN chief electoral and referenda officer Theo Mujoro in January this year, Siluka yesterday declined to reveal the value of the stolen laptops.

In January, when The Namibian asked Mujoro for the value of the stolen laptops, he said: “The ECN understands the sensitivity and urgency of this unfortunate event and will keep electoral stakeholders and the public informed on any further development concerning this matter.”

Mujoro said no data security breaches were committed as a result of the theft.

Early this month, the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) said it has been informed that two of the 117 missing laptops have been recovered.

According to his letter to Mujoro, LPM City of Windhoek councillor Ivan Skrywer said two laptops were recovered on 8 May.

“If the allegations are true, why were ECN stakeholders, such as political parties, not informed about this?” Skywer asked. Skrywer said on 13 June, he wrote a letter to Mujoro’s office, demanding an answer and confirmation of the allegations.

“We hereby confirm that two of the 117 laptops were discovered in the ECN logistics store at the ECN headquarters. This discovery was duly reported to the investigative officer,” Mujoro confirmed in his letter to Skywer dated 15 June

Earlier this year, the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) accused the ECN of ignoring its request for a meeting to discuss the missing 117 laptops.

This is not the first time the ECN has lost election materials. In 2017, the election body loaned four electronic voting machines to be used at the Swapo Party Elders’ Council congress election. The ruling party returned one of these machines.

Former justice minister Sacky Shanghala later claimed the electronic voting machines that went missing while in the hands of the ruling Swapo party, got lost after they “fell from the trailer” in which they were being transported.

Two of the machines were later discovered in Katutura after The Namibian broke the story of the missing electronic voting machines.