Katrina shows her claws

The gloves came off yesterday, as education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa took the stand in her corruption trial.

03 April 2019 | Justice

After being endlessly bombarded with the State's case against her since the start of her graft trial, education minister and former Hardap governor Katrina Hanse-Himarwa finally took the stand yesterday.

An immaculately dressed Hanse-Himarwa unequivocally denied that she had committed any corruption linked the Mass Housing beneficiary list in Mariental during her time as governor.

She also describes the allegations against her, repeated by several witnesses since the start of her trial towards the end of last year, as “infamous lies”.

It was prayer time before she took the stand in the Windhoek High Court.

Her political allies, including National Council chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams and Swapo National Assembly chief whip Eveline Nawases-Tayele, prayed for strength for the beleaguered minister. The group embraced each other and emotions overflowed before they prayed.

Hanse-Himarwa, who stands accused of corruptly using her position as Hardap governor for gratification, was implicated by State witnesses of having giving a directive to remove two Mass Housing beneficiaries -Regina Kuhlman and Piet Fransman - from the beneficiary list because of their political affiliations. They were replaced by Hanse-Himarwa's relatives.

She admitted that 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.

She said she only knew Gowases by her maiden surname, Roily.

Deputy prosecutor general Ed Marondedze pointed out that Gowases was in fact Hanse-Himarwa's second cousin and is certainly not a distant relative.

Hanse-Himarwa testified further that Hanse was married to her younger brother, but insisted that she never gave a directive that her family members should be put on the beneficiary list.

According to her she also knew nothing about Kuhlman, whom she has only “seen around”, and certainly had no knowledge of her political affiliation.

This is despite Kuhlman's testimony in court last month that at some point she had spent a night in Hanse-Himarwa's house.

Hanse-Himarwa, who served as the Hardap governor between 2005 and 2015, before she was appointed as education minister, also denied she had met local government ministry officials at the Mariental municipality to discuss a 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 Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was investigating her.

According to her this was a long time before the ACC officially informed her of their investigation against her.

“He called me to ask if I knew about the ACC case and told me that the ACC was pressurising him to say that I unilaterally inserted names on the beneficiary list,” Hanse-Himarwa told the court.

In November last year Nghiwilepo told Judge Christi Liebenberg Hanse-Himarwa had instructed him to remove two names and replace them with names she gave him.

According to Hanse-Himarwa, the ACC eventually summoned her to their offices some time in 2016, where she was informed of the charges against her.

“I was called to ACC and the official put a recorder and a questionnaire in front of me. He also told me that I would be on camera, but I rejected to be on camera until I have spoken to my lawyer,” she said.

Media advisory

Hanse-Himarwa repeatedly said her role as governor was to serve as a link between the region and the central government.

She emphasised she was merely the political head and had no business getting involved with administration in the region, such as the allocation of houses under the mass housing project.

According to her she had only become aware of the actual charges against her during October 2018, but was informed by the ACC which laws she had contravened already in 2016.

Marondedze put it to her that when she issued a media advisory to defend herself last year, she was in actual fact referring to the allegation that she had inserted her relatives on the housing beneficiary list.

In her statement, Hanse-Himarwa said it was sad that the execution of her duties as governor had resulted in a case being pursued against her.

She said yesterday the statement had only referred to her role as governor.

Marondedze emphasised that she knew by then that she was not indicted because of her role as governor, but because of the allegations that she had inserted two of her relatives on the list.

She denied this, saying she feels the State is trying to corner her into admitting it.

Erwin Leuschner

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