'I have deep pockets'

It is unclear whether the funds being collected for Katrina Hanse-Himarwa are for her legal bills or a possible fine she may receive this week.

23 July 2019 | Local News

Former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has distanced herself from a group calling itself 'Friends of Katrina', which is soliciting funds ahead of her sentencing for corruption tomorrow in the Windhoek High Court.

It is unclear whether the group is collecting funds to pay her defence team or for a possible fine she may receive from Judge Christie Liebenberg.

While analysts said there is nothing wrong with this, it may send the wrong message in terms of the fight against corruption. Hanse-Himarwa was convicted earlier this month of corruptly using her former office as Hardap governor for gratification, and for removing two Mass Housing beneficiaries from a waiting list to make way for two of her relatives.







When contacted for comment about the 'Friends of Katrina' bank account, which was opened recently, Hanse-Himarwa said she knows nothing about this.

“I, Katrina, do not ask for donations from anybody. I am standing for my case. Do not disturb me. I do not know about that thing. I have got deep enough pockets,” she said.

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 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 for four years imprisonment of which two were conditionally suspended. Likando lost the appeal of his conviction and sentence, passing away a month before judges Liebenberg and Naomi Shivute handed down their ruling in December 2016.

Political analyst Henning Melber said he is very worried about the current trend that is painting Hanse-Himarwa as a “victim”.

According to Melber, it should not matter if the accused is a man or a woman, young or old, white or black, or any other blend, but rather that the individual acted in full possession of his or her mental abilities.



Legal costs

Political analyst Graham Hopwood said he could only presume that the money collected by the 'Friends of Katrina' was to assist Hanse-Himarwa to cover her legal costs, which should be quite extensive, and possibly the costs, if she decides to appeal.

“I do not think it is irregular, but it would be good to know who is behind it or who it is; whether it is an official organisation. But if her friends just want to collect money to cover her legal costs then she is not doing anything wrong as such,” he said.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah agrees there is nothing wrong with her friends collecting money in their own right. However, he cautioned that this can be seen as undermining government's fight against corruption.

“It weakens our resolve to fight corruption, in the sense that people have been crying and complaining about corruption, but when the court pronounced itself, you see people from the public stepping in to cover her or protect her. It sends a wrong message, but people have every right to do so,” he said.



JEMIMA BEUKES

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