WINDHOEK – Nelius Becker, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Chief Investigator until yesterday, says Namibia is ‘not ready’ to fight corruption and fingered the courts as accomplices in this regard by not sending a strong message of deterrence on corruption.
Yesterday was Becker’s last working day at ACC after 12 years at the graft-busting agency and thinly referred to yesterday’s sentencing of former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa to a fine of N$50 000 as one of the many reasons he was resigning.
A career policeman, Becker is leaving ACC to rejoin the Namibian police as Commissioner of the Crime Investigation Directorate (CID).
He described working for ACC as ‘frustrating’ because the commission does more work – more that it gets credited for – but little is seen in terms of outcomes of the cases it has submitted for prosecution.
The courts have applied the law differently to convicts of similar offences, with those with higher social standing enjoying unfettered leniency while those at the bottom of the social strata are made to pay heavily for their crimes, he said.
Referring to Judge Christi Liebenberg’s sentencing of Hanse-Himarwa to a fine after being convicted of corruption recently, Becker yesterday said on Facebook: “I was reminded as to why this is my last day of work at the ACC. A big precedent was set here today that will haunt all future cases.”
Speaking to New Era afterwards, Becker said: “Working for ACC is frustrating. You can barely count on your finger any credit that ACC gets but the amount of criticism is overwhelming. We work hard on cases of corruption but the end result is always a disappointment.”
“It’s simple. We are not ready to fight corruption. We have to look at a bigger picture. Nations like Singapore have become what they are today because of their hard stance on corruption. The Namibian courts are not sending a strong message to the public against corruption.”
Cementing his argument that people of high social standing enjoy favouritism from the courts, Becker referred to the case of police officer Samuel Likando, whom the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court sentenced to four years for accepting a bribe of N$500 during a police traffic operation. Judge Liebenberg was part of the High Court bench that rejected the Likando’s appeal for a lighter sentence on his conviction.
Defending the court’s stance on the Likando case, Judge Liebenberg yesterday said in his judgment that: “[The matter] involved a police officer on duty at a roadblock who extorted cash in the amount of N$500 from a member of public by threatening to put him under arrest and lock him up unless he paid over the money.”
“Dealing with similar cases, the court remarked that these cases clearly showed that corruption committed by police officers is treated as serious by the courts and that the norm was not to impose fines, but imprisonment.”
He continued: “It is for that reason that the court on appeal said that ‘it would be wrong for this court to ignore the guidelines on sentences and the general thread apparent from sentences in cases decided in recent years in regard to a particular offence.”
Becker said the lower courts have shown a bit of willingness to fight corruption, but the High Court’s record in this regard leave much to be desired.
He said he was leaving the ACC because his heart was no longer there. “I’ve always liked being a policeman but I thought we would make a good difference at the ACC, but when you do your work and other institutions fail at theirs, there’s no point being here.”
2019-08-01 06:57:21 24 days ago