WINDHOEK – Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa yesterday conceded that her conviction for corruption by the Windhoek High Court could have implications for her political career.
Judge Christi Liebenberg convicted former Hardap governor Hanse-Himarwa on a charge of corruptly using her office or position for gratification.
Hanse-Himarwa, who President Hage Geingob nominated as one of his presidential nominees to the National Assembly and then appointed as education minister, hinted at appealing the conviction by stating that the matter was “not over yet”.
If the conviction is not overturned in the Supreme Court, in the event that she appeals the High Court verdict, the minister’s political career – by her own admission - may be affected.
“Of course the guilty verdict, if you are guilty of an offence, it’s obvious that it’s got its own impact on your own political career. But that for me is not even the end,” she told reporters after her landmark conviction.
Hanse-Himarwa would now hope that her pending sentence would be in favour of her continued stay in parliament.
According to Article 47 of the Namibian Constitution, which deals with disqualification of members from the National Assembly: “No persons may become members of the National Assembly if they; (a) have at any time after independence been convicted of any offence in Namibia, or outside Namibia, and for which they have been sentenced to death or to imprisonment of more than 12 months without the option of a fine, unless they have received a free pardon or unless such imprisonment has expired at least 10 years before the date of their election.”
Apart from what the constitution says, it is also not known what decision, if any, President Geingob may take if, after all the legal processes, the corruption conviction against the minister stands.
“After due consideration of the evidence adduced, the only conclusion to come to is that the state has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused’s version is not reasonably true and therefore falls to be rejected as false.”
With these words, Judge Liebenberg yesterday convicted the minister on a charge of corruptly using her office or position for gratification.
According to the judge, it was duly established that Hanse-Himarwa, during her reign as governor of the Hardap Region, clearly abused her powers and authority vested in her office when she insisted that the list of beneficiaries under the Mass Housing Development Program be amended to her satisfaction, thereby ensuring that at least one of her family members benefitted directly from her actions.
Hanse-Himarwa was charged with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act for removing two names from the original list and replacing it with the names of her family members.
During the trial, it was stated that this was done for the sole reason that the intended beneficiaries were members of opposition parties.
Regina Kulman and Piet Fransman, the two beneficiaries removed, were given houses at the next handover.
Hanse-Himarwa denied the allegations at the start of her trial and maintained that the charges were the result of a witch-hunt against her by the ACC.
The judge however found that no evidence was adduced that this was the case.
In fact, Judge Liebenberg said, evidence was presented that the state witnesses were all friends or business partners of Hanse-Himarwa and held high positions in society. They thus had no reason to witch-hunt one their own, he found.
He said that the assertion that the ACC officials could have asserted undue influence over them is without substance and stands to be rejected.
According to the judge, Hanse-Himarwa had a particular interest in the persons listed as beneficiaries and she made it her stance to have insight into the list to the extent that she called for the master list of all the applicants.
“Although the accused disputes any interference on her part with the composition of the list of beneficiaries due to lack of authority, her actions, even on her own evidence, shows otherwise,” the judge said and continued: “That the accused acted with purpose can clearly be observed from her action starting off with the expression of dissatisfaction with the exclusion of her office from the selection process, the calling for the master list and the calling for a follow-up meeting during which, according to overwhelming evidence is where the offence charged was committed.”
He further said that it is thus not surprising that Hanse-Himarwa completely divorced herself during the trial from the events that took place during that meeting.
According to the judge, it is mind-boggling how the accused could claim that the events of the second meeting did not take place as the people she claims implicated her, still to this day maintain good relationships with her.
“I find any suggestion that these witnesses acted in concert with the purpose of falsely incriminating the accused preposterous and unsubstantiated by the established facts,” Judge Liebenberg said.
He went on to say that any argument suggestive of the witnesses having singled her out as scapegoat for their own corrupt conduct is misconceived.
According to Judge Liebenberg, the only reasonable conclusion to come to is that Hanse-Himarwa did not take the court into her confidence and tried to mislead the court by contriving the facts into her favour.
“In an attempt to exonerate herself from the incriminating evidence of state witnesses, she deliberately decided to mislead the court by testifying under oath that the meeting of December 16, 2014 never took place – this was a blatant lie,” the judge stated.
He went on to say that one could clearly see that she wanted to distance herself from evidence that exposed her governance and enforcement of her own will as governor at the meeting, but the fact remains it did not pay off and, consequentially, her evidence in this regard is rendered false beyond reasonable doubt.
Judge Liebenberg further said that it is his opinion that Hanse-Himarwa, through her action, clearly demonstrated that despite knowing her duties in relation to the mass housing programme being of supervisory nature only, and that she lacked the necessary authority to overrule the selection discretion and decisions on the selection process, she assumed power and authority by exerting her immense political clout as the political head of the region to compel the selection committee to give in to her whims and amend the list.
As such, the judge said, there can be no doubt that Hanse-Himarwa wrongfully used her position and office to overrule the final list of beneficiaries and effected the changes ultimately made to the list.
Hanse-Himarwa is represented by Sisa Namandje and the State by Advocate Ed Marondedze assisted by Advocate Salomon Kanyemba.
The matter was postponed to July 24, 25 and 26 for pre-sentencing procedures and Hanse-Himarwa remains free on a warning.