I won't quit

Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa does not intend to resign after being found guilty of corruption.

09 July 2019 | Justice

Not even a guilty verdict could dim education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa's confidence yesterday.

The former Hardap governor was found guilty of corruption by High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg. She will be sentenced on 24 July.

But she has no plans to resign from public office, saying that “it is not over yet”. She arrived at court a few minutes late, dressed in a white dress with golden accessories and waving at her supporters. Several senior government officials joined Hanse-Himarwa's family and friends who were by her side to support her.

They included her deputy, Anna Nghipondoka, deputy executive director in the education ministry Charles Kabajani, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Loide Kasingo, and Hanse-Himarwa's trusted ally, National Council member Margaret Mensah-Williams.





After the verdict was delivered, Hanse-Himarwa consoled her supporters. Walking past the public gallery, she asked them, “Why are your faces so pale?”

Many supporters embraced her to express their sympathy but she told them to pull themselves together because “this is not the end”.

During a brief media interview she said the guilty verdict was “the view of another human being,” and the opposite of her view.

“For me this is not the end. It is going on. Of course a guilty verdict… if you are guilty of an offence then it is obvious that it will have an impact on your career, but that is not even the end,” she said.

Hanse-Himarwa was found guilty 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.

She insisted repeatedly that she had never met the two relatives, adding that one of them was only a distant relative. But the court pointed out that the “distant relative” was in fact her niece.

Hanse-Himarwa and her counsel, Sisa Namandje, also insisted that the Anti-Corruption Commission was bent on building a case against her, so much so that they would have fabricated witness statements.

In his judgment yesterday, Judge Christie Liebenberg said the State had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Hanse-Himarwa's version of events was false. “It was duly established that the accused, as governor of the Hardap Region, clearly abused the power and authority vested in her office when insisting that the list of beneficiaries under the MHDP be amended to her satisfaction, thereby ensuring that at least one of her family members benefit directly from her actions. The accused's actions were intentional and constituted a chargeable offence under the Anti-Corruption Act (ACA),” Judge Liebenberg ruled.



Big blow

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah says Hanse-Himarwa's conviction was bad news for her in the court of public opinion.

“It is not a good time for any politician to be found guilty of corruption in Namibia now. We find ourselves in an era where there is increasing public anger against corruption, and huge demands for politicians to prosecuted for corruption. Therefore, no doubt, she will be subjected to harsh public vilification,” he said. However, the damage to her political career would be only temporary, he said, adding that a guilty verdict does not do much political damage in Namibia.

“We have seen previous cases where people in the Swapo Party [who were] found guilty were openly welcomed and embraced by the party. Perhaps what would damage [her] is a jail term or if President Hage Geingob relieves her of her ministerial duties,” Kamwanyah said. When approached for comment, Swapo Party secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa said she did not follow the court case and could not comment.

“I am very much sorry, I do not know the story you are talking about,” she said.

Article 47 of the Namibian Constitution states that nobody may become a member of the National Assembly if he or she has been convicted of a crime for which the sentence exceeded 12 months in prison, unless the prison term expired at least 10 years before their election.



JEMIMA BEUKES

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