Remove me first – Katrina

The former education minister has come out swinging in defence of her decision to accept a nomination to a legal affairs committee – despite being freshly convicted of corruption.

24 February 2020 | Crime

Former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, responding to the hullaballoo over her appointment to the parliamentary standing committee on legal affairs, said those pained by her recent appointment must first remove her from Parliament in order to deny her such rights.

She made the comment to Namibian Sun's sister newspaper, Republikein, over the weekend.

Hanse-Himarwa's appointment to the committee, allegedly by speaker of the National Assembly and fellow Swapo leader Peter Katjavivi just months after she was convicted of corruption, has drawn the ire of the public, with a petition making the rounds on social media for her removal.

Some Swapo members have publicly vented against the disgraced former minister's appointment, pointing out the irony of having been nominated to a constitutional and legal affairs committee while she has been convicted of violating the committee's general principles.

Also, the fact that Swapo recently recalled disgraced ministers Sacky Shanghala and Bernhard Esau from Parliament after they were arrested for alleged corruption has led to accusations that the party applies principles differently.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said the appointment, though legal, flies in the face of good governance and confirms the lack of moral compass and ethics in the ruling party.

He said the appointment could prove to be a dangerous gamble ahead of the November 2020 regional and local authority elections.

Human rights lawyer Normal Tjombe said Namibians have a right to demand how they are represented and have the right to remedial action.

This, he said, includes the removal of a representative from a particular role.

“The leaders better listen and seriously consider the demands, instead of arrogantly dismissing them.”



Katjavivi dismissive

House speaker Katjavivi, on instruction of the ruling party, informed the National Assembly that Hanse-Himarwa is to serve on the committee until the current Parliament's term ends next month.

“There is nothing extraordinary about that,” replied Katjavivi when contacted for comment.

“As a backbencher, she can, like any other member of Parliament, serve on a parliamentary committee. It was consistent with our rules, she was consulted and indicated on which committee she wanted to serve and she chose to serve on the committee dealing with legal affairs,” he said.

Hanse-Himarwa was found guilty of corruptly using her former position as governor of the Hardap Region to replace the names of two mass housing beneficiaries with those of her relatives.

Swapo spokesperson Hilma Nicanor declined to comment, saying she just came out of church.

Political commentator Henning Melber likened Hanse-Himarwa's nomination to “turning the goat into a gardener”.





He pointed out that good governance requires a sound judgment of what is right and what is wrong, and a convicted MP serving on this particular committee is not a form of rehabilitation but an insult on the rule of law, even if it is within the legal provisions.

Melber added that Swapo's failure to advise Hanse-Himarwa against joining the committee undermines the party's already damaged credibility.

According to Melber, it is bad enough that convicted criminals remain lawmakers.



Legality

The Parliament standing rules and procedures stipulate that at the beginning of each Parliament session, those MPs who hold no Cabinet portfolio must join parliamentary committees.

There are eight parliamentary standing committees in the National Assembly, and backbenchers join these committees based on their own interests or expertise, following a party directive.

According to National Assembly senior public relations officer David Nahogandja, once a committee is formed, the members of that committee elect the chairperson and vice-chairperson and then commence with its duties.

“When an MP is no longer a minister but continues to serve as a member of the National Assembly, he or she is required by the rules of the house to join and serve in the parliamentary committees. It is part of the job of the backbenchers,” he said.

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JEMIMA BEUKES

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