WINDHOEK - The State, represented by Advocate Ed Marondedze, yesterday asked Windhoek High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg to sentence former minister of education Katrina Hanse-Himarwa to an unspecified jail term. Judge Liebenberg convicted Hanse-Himarwa on a charge of corruptly using her office for gratification by replacing two names on the beneficiary list for the mass housing scheme in Mariental with those of her relatives.
Making submissions on the sentence to be meted out to the former minister, Marondedze said it was a deliberate and conscious decision that Hanse-Himarwa made when she ordered the change on the list because she was in a position of power.
“It was blatant show of power,” he stressed.
He further said society do not report cases of corruption anymore because they view the Anti-Corruption Commission ACC) as a toothless dog that only targets small fish, but this case might just persuade members of society to report corruption again as it is a shark that was caught in the net.
Sisa Namandje, representing Hanse-Himarwa, asked the court to impose a fine of N$35 000 or, in default, 12 months imprisonment, coupled with a wholly suspended custodial sentence.
Marondedze branded Namandje’s submission “the joke of the day” and said such a sentence will trivialise the serious offence of corruption for which the former governor was convicted.
He said the case has been widely publicised and to punish her with a fine will give the impression that the rich can buy their way out of trouble. This is a very serious offence committed at a very high level and it must be dealt with, with the tenacity it deserves, he stated. According to Marondedze, the blameworthiness of Hanse-Himarwa is very high as she was the presence of government in the Hardap Region where she was governor – installed there to protect the image of government. Instead, she tarnished that image, Marondedze argued.
He told the court that the sentence must reflect the indignation of society and the court has a duty to impose a sentence that will repair the image of government in the eyes of not only the residents of Hardap, but the nation as a whole. A slap on the wrist will not achieve this, he added. Namandje told the court that it is not true that Hanse-Himarwa is oblivious to the severity of the offence she committed.
Behind the constant smiling and the brave front she put up, hides a hurt and suffering person, he said. He said not only has Hanse-Himarwa suffered a huge financial blow as she had to resign from her position as minister, which resulted in a drastic decrease in her salary, but she is also saddled with a huge legal bill. He handed in the bill – which amounts to about N$1.4 million of which just over N$840 000 is still outstanding – as evidence to the court. He further told the court that the stigma that comes with a conviction will hang around the shoulders of Hanse-Himarwa for years to come, adding that her political career – which was soaring like an eagle – has come down crashing.
According to Namandje, despite society’s retributive tendencies, the court must impose a just and fair sentence that is within the confines of the law. According to him, they are not asking for Hanse-Himarwa to get away with what she has done, but asking for a reasonable sentence guided by the principles of law. Namandje said Hanse-Himarwa asked him to convey to the court her deepest and most sincere apologies and remorse and that she accepts the court’s ruling.
She further humbly apologised to the members of her constituency and the nation at large and asked for forgiveness.
Judge Liebenberg reserved his judgement on sentencing to next week Wednesday, July 31, at 10h00.