WINDHOEK - Minister of Education Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, 51, yesterday issued a blank denial that she corruptly used her office for gratification or that she gave a “directive” to members of the committee responsible for selecting the beneficiaries of mass housing to remove some names and replace them with the names of her relatives when she testified in her own defence yesterday in the Windhoek High Court before High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg.
Continuously saying that she did not have the power, the authority or the influence to alter the list, the former governor of the Hardap Region stuck to her guns. Dressed in a white two piece with a matching headscarf, she told the court that as the political head of the region, her duty was to observe what is happening in her region and report to the central government and the President. That is why she made enquiries about the beneficiary list from the municipality and was presented with a list of all the people that applied for mass housing.
She further said her office received numerous complaints from residents of Mariental about the manner in which the process was conducted by the municipality. Her understanding of the mass housing scheme was that people who applied first would benefit first, she said, but, she added, complaints reached her office that it was no longer the case and that people’s income were now the deciding factor.
This prompted her to write a letter to the committee responsible for the selection of beneficiaries “requesting” them to provide her with information.
She further said that during December of 2014, she received information that some of the houses were to be handed over and that she was to officiate at the handover and at the same instance a courtesy call to her office was requested to brief her on the final list and the program for the handover.
According to her, she never ever advanced any misgivings about the beneficiaries, as it was not her place. She also said that Edward Wambo, the regional councillor of the Rehoboth East Constituency and the former mayor of Mariental Alex Kamburute had misgivings about the manner in which their staff compiled the list and about them not being included in the process.
During cross-examination, Advocate Ed Marondedze who is prosecuting the case, assisted by Advocate Solomon Kanyemba wanted to know from Katrina why this never came out during the trial as Kamburute testified that he never said a word during their meeting with her. He also wanted to know when she first knew the charge preferred against her. According to him, she admitted the transgression in a press release she issued shortly after her first appearance in the Mariental Magistrate’s Court.
According to Marondedze, the former governor stated categorically in the press release that she stands by her actions which translates to her admitting guilt. Hanse-Himarwa, however vehemently denied this and said that what she meant was her actions in general as governor of Hardap Region and all that she has achieved including the mass housing scheme.
She stands charged with the offence from her days as Hardap governor, after it was alleged by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) that she corruptly placed relatives on a list of housing beneficiaries of the Mass Housing Scheme at Mariental and replaced some original intended beneficiaries during the mass housing project in 2014.
The minister denied the allegation and said in a statement that she was confident of clearing her name in court. In a plea explanation read into the record by her legal representative, Sisa Namandje, the minister issued a collateral challenge saying that irrespective of the merits of the allegations against her, the underlying decision of the Prosecutor General and the charge preferred against her are invalid and unlawful on the basis that the jurisdictional facts and statutory provisions under the Anti-Corruption Act necessary for a lawful referral by the ACC’s Director General was not complied with.
The trial continues today and Hanse-Himarwa is free on warning.