Katrina's joyous celebration questioned

02 August 2019 | Justice

Former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa and her supporters have been criticised for celebrating her N$50 000 fine for corruption.

A video clip of Hanse-Himarwa giving a speech to a crowd of supporters at her house after the High Court slapped her with a fine on Wednesday has gone viral.

She was found guilty of corruptly using her former office as Hardap governor for gratification by removing two Mass Housing beneficiaries from a waiting list to make way for two of her relatives.

South African professor Nixon Kariithi believes Judge Christie Liebenberg was quite lenient when he fined Hanse-Himarwa N$50 000 or 24 months. Kariithi also believes it might be interesting to see if there is scope for an appeal against the rather light sentence.

“The judiciary could greatly assist society in stamping out corruption by handing down sentences that fit the crime,” he said.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah believes National Council chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams dancing in support of someone who has been convicted of corruption on national television is unacceptable.

Although he pointed out that there is nothing wrong with her supporting her friend, Kamwanyah questioned whether she was on official leave during the trial.

“It does not send a positive massage when a national leader is celebrating a case involving corruption - a scourge Namibia is fighting so hard to root out. I am sure there are other high-ranking officials who supported Hanse-Himarwa, but they were not seen,” he said

Mensah-Williams declined to comment on whether she was on official leave during the trial.

“Unfortunately, with all due respect, I will not respond to any criticism because I will give it legitimacy. I have my conscience, my conscience speaks to me and it is clear,” she said.

Kariithi said politicians and other public leaders often show double standards when they stand by their comrades, even in the face of serious malfeasance.

According to him, the question that emerges from such actions is whether expressing solidarity with a convicted fellow politician devalues anti-corruption messages.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani said people should not celebrate corruption.

“Even if one is convicted it is natural to have supporters who support you in whatever you do. All of us can wish any person well, but the way we wish them well must show our sympathy and not a celebration,” he said. Venaani also feels Hanse-Himarwa must apologise to the people whose names she has removed from the Mass Housing list.

Ombudsman John Walters said there is nothing untoward about Mensah-Williams supporting her friend.

“What I can infer from that is that they celebrated their great relief of her being fined and not being given a custodial sentence, but that is a tag she will carry for a long time.”

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JEMIMA BEUKES