‘I didn’t panic’

Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa was cross-examined by the State in her corruption trial yesterday.

04 April 2019 | Justice

JEMIMA BEUKES

Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has testified under cross-examination in the Windhoek High Court that there was no need for her to panic and “jump around” when she was alerted of an Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), as the graft allegations against her are unfounded.

The former Hardap governor stood with arms folded as she was questioned by State advocate Ed Marondedze.

He wanted to why she took no action when she learned of the allegations levelled against her.

Hanse-Himarwa struggled in court to point out the “striking” similarities in witness statements, which convinced her the ACC was hell-bent on incriminating her. The similarities in the State’s witness statements is the crux of her defence.

Yesterday afternoon she pointed out similarities in the statements while testifying. Going under cross-examination, the State poked holes in her defence.

“By your own admission you said it was the ‘talk of the town’ and now you say it was incriminating. How can it be incriminating when everyone was talking about it?” Marondedze enquired, adding that there was nothing extraordinary about what the witnesses said, as it was the ‘talk of the town’.

Hanse-Himarwa stands accused of corruptly using her position to favour her relatives.

She is alleged to have given a directive that two Mass Housing beneficiaries - Regina Kuhlman and Piet Fransman - be removed from the beneficiary list because of their political affiliations in 2014.

On Tuesday she admitted that the two beneficiaries who replaced them - Justine Gowases and Lorraine Hanse - were her relatives, but pointed out that Gowases was in fact a distant relative with whom she had no intimate relationship.

Hanse-Himarwa has profusely denied the allegations against her, rejecting them as “infamous lies”.

Marondedze put it to her yesterday that she had, as governor, asked to see the list of beneficiaries to see whether her relatives were indeed on the list.

“Naturally, you would have wanted to see if they were there,” he said.

A visibly defensive Hanse-Himarwa said there had been no need for her to panic when she was alerted that the ACC was investigating her.

“My lordship I did not see the need to revisit documents. I did not have any panic… My conscience was clear and I knew the rumour was not true,” she said.

She emphasised that as governor her role was not to scrutinise and study names on the list.

Marondedze then put it to her that “it is so because deep down in your heart you knew you are the one who did that”.

“You took a conscious decision not to look into the allegations.”

Hanse-Himarwa then responded: “I took a conscious decision not to waste my time on allegations.”

Marondedze said he found it strange that she did not revisit the allegations, especially given the fact that they had now resulted in her being arrested and arraigned in court.

To a question from Marondedze on whether she had spoken to Hanse about the allegations, Hanse-Himarwa responded “no”.

Marondedze argued her and her legal representative’s silence when State witnesses delivered their testimonies indicated they agree with their versions.

“I understood I was not allowed to speak up,” said Hanse-Himarwa,

But Marondedze pointed out to her that her lawyer was supposed to speak on her behalf.

Hanse-Himarwa, who served as the Hardap governor between 2005 and 2015, before she was appointed as education minister, had earlier denied she had met local government ministry officials at the Mariental municipality to discuss the list of mass housing beneficiaries.

She also told the court that Mariental CEO Paul Nghiwilepo had called her sometime in 2015 to enquire whether she was aware that the ACC was investigating her.

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