An accountability test

09 July 2019 | Columns

President Hage Geingob is arguably facing his toughest accountability test, following the conviction of education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa yesterday in the Windhoek High Court. Hanse-Himarwa was found guilty of corruptly using her former position as Hardap governor for gratification. The corruption trial related to Mass Housing beneficiaries being removed from a list, to the benefit of the minister’s relatives. She was implicated by State witnesses of having issued a directive to remove two Mass Housing beneficiaries - Regina Kuhlman and Piet Fransman - from the beneficiary list because of their political affiliation. They were replaced by Hanse-Himarwa's relatives Justine Gowases and Lorraine Hanse. Having christened 2019 as ‘the year of accountability’, Geingob faces pressure to deal decisively with corruption and hold those in his cabinet and government responsible for their actions. The head of state is now sitting in a scenario in which not only a senior cabinet minister, but one of his closest allies, has been found guilty of corruption. It is difficult and rare to come up with any recent example of a Namibian cabinet minister resigning on principle. In an ideal world, the education minister would have tendered her resignation the very moment she was implicated in this corruption scandal. Yes, we are aware of article 47 that deals with the disqualification of MPs. According to the constitution, a politician can only be disqualified from being an MP if they are sentenced to jail for longer than 12 months, without an option of a fine. Imagine sitting with a National Assembly filled with convicted fraudsters, who simply paid their fines. It paints a very bad picture of a government that is supposedly committed to combatting corruption, which has become a political and moral crisis in our society. The education minister will hear her sentencing fate very soon, but the damage is already done. She has lost the moral high ground and should not be allowed to continue with her critical role as education minister.