WINDHOEK - Scenes of jubilation and prayers characterised yesterday’s sentence against former minister of education Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, whom Windhoek High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg fined N$50 000 instead of direct imprisonment.
Hanse-Himarwa was convicted by Judge Liebenberg on a charge of corruptly using her office for gratification earlier this month.
The fine is coupled with a two-year sentence if she fails to pay it.
In addition, the judge sentenced the former minister to a jail term of 12 months suspended for five years on condition that she is not convicted of a crime of corruption during the period of suspension.
According to Judge Liebenberg, while there can be no doubt that Katrina has to live with a constant sense of guilt for having failed her family and those who had put their trust in her, the court cannot allow feelings of sympathy for those affected, to deter it from imposing the kind of sentence dictated by the interests of justice and society.
“Distress and hardship caused to the accused’s family, the damage done to her public and political career and her fall from grace, unfortunately are inevitable consequences of crime and therefore in itself cannot be regarded as mitigating factors,” the judge stated.
He went on to say that in the jurisdiction, convictions under the Anti-Corruption Act are few and far, with barely any guidelines when it comes to sentencing for this kind of offences.
Judge Liebenberg further said that the offence of corruption, by any standard, is serious and the nature thereof is such that it penetrates every corner and sphere of society, be it political, economic or social and raised its ugly head where someone stood to gain at the expense of others, or society in general.
“In the present instance, it was committed at the expense of two persons more deserving of houses than those who benefitted from the accused’s unacceptable and appalling conduct,” the judge emphasised.
He said that her actions were politically motivated, despite it having been explained to her more than once that it was a national programme and that political affiliation played no role in the selection of beneficiaries.
“In her position as governor, she should have had no difficulty in understanding that her duties were inter alia to represent all persons within the Hardap Region and certainly not along partisan lines,” Judge Liebenberg stressed.
He went on to say that her duty was first and foremost to have at heart the interests of society as a whole, whose interests she was appointed to serve, not to go about it selectively.
“Unfortunately she dismally failed them,” the judge stated.
Judge Liebenberg further said that corruption erodes the very fabric of this society and appears to be the scourge of modern democracies which threatens constitutional order and courts must send out an unequivocal message that it will not be tolerated and that punishment will be appropriately severe.
He went on to say that society have become accustomed to the belief that in most cases involving corruption in the past, act of fraud or theft were committed in which vast amounts of money were appropriated for self-enrichment which usually result in long custodial sentences.
However, the judge said, the present circumstances are completely different in that the corrupt act is based on the accused having abused the power vested in her office as Governor of the Hardap Region.
Though there can be no doubt that she made herself guilty of corruption, the court must consider the circumstances under which it was committed and her moral blameworthiness, the judge said.
Judge Liebenberg stated further that the seriousness of the offence must be viewed in context with the circumstances it was committed and that she personally did not benefit from her actions and that while her actions were reprehensible and must be condemned in the strongest terms, it was not aimed at self-enrichment, but rather an error of judgment.