Proximity to power

02 August 2019 | Columns

This week's sentencing of former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, who was ordered by Judge Christie Liebenberg to pay a fine of N$50 000 or face two years' imprisonment, was received with mixed feelings.

While some viewed the sentence as fair, there are those who are of the opinion that the former Hardap governor got off lightly, and that it this is a setback for the fight against corruption, especially when it involves public office-bearers.

In his sentencing judgment, Liebenberg concluded that corruption “creates and nurtures feelings of lawlessness within society and generally evokes distrust in the government when committed by high-ranking public officers as in this instance; ultimately it offends the rule of law, a fundamental principle of any democracy”.

It is true that the onus is on the courts to work diligently and pass judgments based on solid evidence presented during trials. In the Hanse-Himarwa case, the judge clearly stated that her biggest sin was that she abused the power vested in her office as the then governor of the region, and that she did not gain any monetary benefit from her act after removing two Mass Housing beneficiaries from a waiting list to make way for two of her relatives.

No money was appropriated for self-enrichment, which would have resulted in a long custodial sentence. However, abuse of power remains the cornerstone of all corrupt activities, specifically in the public sector, to the detriment of all Namibians.

This in our view should have overshadowed the fact that there was no monetary gain.

In the same breath, a golden opportunity may have been lost to set a firm precedent against the abuse of power, and instil a growing sense of belief among ordinary Namibians that the justice system does not see some 'animals' as more equal than others. Namibia has now been left to continue to grapple with the reality that proximity to political power is the way your acquire things in this nation. And that is a very sad state of affairs.

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