'God has spoken'
“God has spoken,” was the common refrain repeated by supporters of former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa after she was fined N$50 000 for corruption.
01 August 2019 | Justice
High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg sentenced the former education minister to a fine or 24 months' imprisonment yesterday in a courtroom filled with her supporters.
They later danced into the streets to celebrate the sentence.
Dressed impeccably in her signature white dress and doek, Hanse-Himarwa smiled when the judge announced her sentence.
Her mother, Aletta Hanse, her husband, Ghenno Himarwa, National Council chairperson Margaret Mensah and other supporters were at her side.
Her husband entered the courtroom clutching what looked like a white bank bag, while his wife waited with her closest allies to sign some court documents.
Hanse-Himarwa's successor as Hardap governor, Esme Isaak, was close to tears outside the court building, as she thanked the Lord for the “fair sentence”.
It was Hanse-Himarwa's tenure as Hardap governor that led to the corruption case.
Just over three weeks ago, on 8 July, Judge Liebenberg had convicted the 52-year-old politician of corruptly using an office or position to obtain gratification.
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.
“Those who make so many comments and even instruct the court to imprison her, they have failed,” Isaak said.
“God has spoken,” her supporters chanted.
Clutching an embroidered shawl around her shoulders, another supporter, Petrina Tiboth, said she was thankful that God had closed this chapter for Hanse-Himarwa.
“I am so happy. Our daughter and the rest of our families were under a lot of stress. But we remained on our knees, asking God for a fair punishment.”
Former gender affairs minister Marlene Mungunda also thanked God.
In his verdict, Judge Liebenberg said Hanse-Himarwa's case was different from those in which large amounts of money were stolen.
“Although corruption is a serious offence, the nature of the offence committed in this instance is clearly distinguishable from other instances where the accused benefited from embezzling large sums of money for personal gain.
“Though the court will follow the same approach, an appropriate sentence shall be determined by the nature and circumstances in which the offence was committed,” Judge Liebenberg said.
He also cited the matter of policeman Samuel Likando, who was convicted of soliciting and taking a N$500 bribe at a roadblock east of Windhoek.
“It is distinguishable from the present case for two reasons: Firstly, the matter came on appeal, and as far as it concerns the powers of a court of appeal to interfere with the sentencing discretion of the trial court, it is settled law that those powers are limited.
“This the court acknowledged in its judgment when stating at paragraph 31 that while the sentence of four years' imprisonment, of which half was suspended, was rather on the harsh side, it was not found to be startlingly inappropriate, or induces a sense of shock,” he said.
The judge added that there was no basis in law for the court to interfere with that sentence.
“As pointed out to counsel during arguments, the approach to sentencing by a court of appeal is different from that of the trial court. Secondly, as stated in the judgment, it involved a police officer on duty at a roadblock, who extorted cash money in the amount of N$500 from a member of the public by threatening to place him under arrest and lock him up unless he paid over the money.
“Dealing with similar cases, the court remarked that these cases clearly showed that corruption committed by police officers is treated as serious by the courts, and that the norm was not to impose fines, but imprisonment. It is for that reason that the court, on appeal, said: 'It would be wrong for this court to ignore the guidelines on sentences and the general thread apparent from sentences in cases decided in recent years, in regard to a particular offence'.”
Popular Democratic Movement Youth League (PDMYL) secretary-general Bensen Katjirijova said the trial had “demonstrated to us that no one is above the law, but more importantly, the impartiality of our judiciary”.
He said the PDMYL believed that the sentence “reflected the best possible outcome that the State could get, in light of all the aggravating and mitigating factors that were presented”.
“However, we are of the view the National Assembly cannot continue to accommodate convicted criminals from the Swapo Party. It seems like the National Assembly is now the dumping ground for disgraced Swapo politicians to come spend the last days of their controversial political careers.
“We therefore call on the Swapo Party to do the honourable thing and remove all convicts from the National Assembly. Members of the National Assembly must demonstrate the highest ethos and values. Having people like Katrina Hanse-Himarwa in the National Assembly does not serve the decorum of the National Assembly well,” Katjirijova added.
Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa declined to comment yesterday.
In terms of Article 47 of the Namibian Constitution, an MP can only be disqualified from serving in parliament if he or she is sentenced to imprisonment of more than 12 months without the option of a fine.