D-Day for Katrina

The former education minister will hear today whether Judge Christie Liebenberg has embraced the State's argument that she be sent to jail.

31 July 2019 | Justice

Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, known for her no-nonsense and no-holds-barred approach to life and politics, will today be sentenced by the High Court for corruption.

She is the first sitting minister to have been found guilty of corruption earlier this month, and resigned as education minister soon after.

Today she faces the perfect storm, when Judge Liebenberg reveals her sentence.

Last week she pleaded for a fine of N$35 000, while the State argued that no special treatment should be shown. Liebenberg convicted the 52-year-old former Hardap governor on a charge of corruptly using an office or position to obtain gratification just over two weeks ago, on 8 July.

This was in relation to her time as governor, when she instructed that two beneficiaries of a Mass Housing project at Mariental be replaced by two of her relatives.

Several legal experts believe she will get a prison sentence, given Liebenberg's track record.

He has in the past given prison sentences in self-gratification cases involving N$500, amongst others.

Political analyst Dr Ndumba Kamwanyah believes that Hanse-Himarwa's future in the ruling party depends on her sentence.



He added she would be able to cling to her political position and parliamentary seat, as long as the sentence is within the bounds of what the party constitution prescribes.

“It will also ignite emotions within the party, but you have also heard some people within the party asking why it she is the only one targeted, when there were also other people involved in questionable deals. So those type of thing will increase during her sentence,” he said.

He added her sentencing may certainly deepen the rift between Team Swapo and Team Harambee.



Small sin

Political analyst Dr Hoze Riruako is, however, convinced that this is not a serious case, because Hanse-Himarwa did not benefit directly, but rather her relatives.

He said the judge may be a bit lenient.

“I suspect that she will get a sentence or a suspended sentence or a sentence with an option to pay a fine,” he said.

Riruako also emphasised the case was not about the minister planning to endanger people, but is rather a graft case and an issue of self-gratification.

Earlier this month, Constitutional expert Nico Horn said Hanse-Himarwa's crime is rather minor, compared to the large amounts of monies lost due to fraudulent activities in the country.

According to him she is likely to get a fine, perhaps with a suspended sentence.

“My opinion is that she will definitely not go to prison. Look, what I have always said is she is really not a big crook, and you should take into consideration people were not removed from the list, they were just moved down. Of course it is a crime, but it is a minor crime,” Horn said.



He said there is some truth to the sentiments expressed by her supporters that she is now being used as a sacrificial lamb for crimes committed by politicians.



“The issue really is that she now pays the price for corruption in public service and corruption in higher offices, but she did not steal anything, she was also not enriched or anything,” he said.







The Likando matter



The well-publicised matter of policeman Samuel Likando, who was convicted of soliciting and taking a N$500 bribe at a roadblock east of Windhoek, indicates that even 'minor' crimes can carry hefty sentences.



The Windhoek Magistrate's Court sentenced him to four years imprisonment of which two were conditionally suspended. Likando lost the appeal of his conviction and sentencing, passing away a month before judges Liebenberg and Naomi Shivute handed down their ruling in December 2016.



In his judgment, Liebenberg said that “a factor held by the trial court to have been most aggravating is that the appellant, being a police officer, was in the position to effect an arrest and that he unlawfully abused this power as a tool to extort money from the complainant”.



“His conduct defies the oath he took to uphold the rule of law and to serve and protect society.”



Liebenberg described the offence as “very serious”, even more so because Likando had “abused the authority he had over the complainant for his personal gain”.



“In these circumstances, it was said, the amount involved does not matter much. When considering the interests of society, the court was of the view that members of public cannot be held hostage by police officers acting like thugs.” Liebenberg continued by saying the imposition of a fine was considered by the court, but in the end it decided against it, as this would negate the seriousness of the offence committed.



“In the trial court's opinion a custodial sentence in the circumstances of the case was justified.”







Arguments



Hanse-Himarwa's lawyer Sisa Namandje pleaded last week for a fine instead of time behind bars for the former education minister, arguing that she deeply regrets her actions and has already paid a steep price for her crime.



Namandje said this includes vast public scrutiny, in addition to a stiff lawyer's bill and a significant N$300 000 annual pay cut.



The state on the other hand has come out strongly against the court showing any leniency and has asked for direct imprisonment. Namandje told Judge Liebenberg his client wanted to put on record that she “unreservedly expresses remorse and regret and asks for forgiveness”.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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