The People’s Editor (TPE)
If a week in politics is a long time, as the adage goes, then four and half years of President Hage Geingob’s tenure surely is eternity.
This week, Namibia awoke to the first high profile corruption conviction when former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa was found guilty for corruptly using her position as Governor of the Hardap Region for gratification when she made changes to the original list of mass housing beneficiaries, at Mariental.
In essence, Hanse-Himarwa is now classified as a convicted criminal. However, this piece is not about Hanse-Himarwa. She is insignificant.
What has struck my attention most in this case, like many in which senior Swapo officials were implicated in corruption, is the support that such officials receive from the ruling party and senior government officials.
This support comes in different forms.
For example, throughout her appearance, Hanse-Himarwa has been accompanied to and from court by National Council chairperson, Magaret Mensah-Williams, and an entourage composed of Swapo central committee members, including its youth league leader Ephraim Nekengo and another Swapo Politburo member who is also a convicted criminal, Tobie Aupindi.
For the Swapo members, as could be heard in the corridor, Hanse-Himarwa’s trial was a, us (Swapo) against them (judiciary), situation.
It was never about Namibia’s independent judiciary and an individual who failed to uphold the country’s supreme law for which they took an oath.
Further, during his corruption trail, Aupindi, the disgraced former managing director received similar support from his comrades.
Topping it all was Geingob, who upon arrival from Niger on Monday pledged his support for Hanse-Himarwa.
In Geingob’s eyes, there is nothing wrong with senior officials embracing a convicted felon.
Equally, it does not paint a bad picture nor taint the government’s effort of combating corruption, the Head of State reasoned.
“So, if people are convicted you become enemies? I am going there now to see her, and say you must be strong; this is what we are waiting for.
You went for justice, but you heard this [was] the outcome,” Geingob told journalist at the Eros airport.
Two days later, Swapo secretary general, Sophia Shaningwa would echo Geingob’s sentiments, seemingly placing Hanse-Himarwa in a victim’s position.
“Listen, I really want to tell you that at this time, honourable Katrina Hanse-Himarwa is going through too many things. And it is also painful wherever she is…I do not enjoy the downfall of anybody, it is not my culture,” she was quoted by the Namibian Sun.
Swapo has since failed to pronounce itself on the conviction one of their foremost leader on a charge of corruption. It seems like a taboo to the ruling party.
Maybe, this is what First Lady Monica Geingos meant when she said Namibians do not hate corruption.
As such, the narrative that is being paraded that Hanse-Himarwa is a victim is far from right.
When she instructed the removal of the two names from the list of government-subsidised houses, she did so out of sheer arrogance that she was untouchable and out of a clear conscious.
The victims are the two individuals whose opportunity to have a roof over their heads was taken away, simply because they did not have a family member who is part of the political elite.
Astonishingly, Hanse-Himarwa would throughout her trial, showboat her court appearances, reducing the judiciary to a joke.
As to why she should be treated with remorse is still astounding to say the least.
Her conviction rather, is a victory for our democracy, the anti-graft fight and to a certain extent confirmation of the constitutionally guaranteed principle that that no one is above the law.
Two years ago, Chinese millionaire Jack Huang was arrested to answer to tax evasion, fraud and money laundering charges with a N$3,5 billion price tag. Huang is a close friend and business partner of Geingob.
Imagine what government could do with N$ 3,5 billion? Build over 4000 low cost houses; procure medicine for state hospitals or even send over 50 000 students to university.
A few years back, another of Geingob’s friends, Ernest Adjovi, walked away with over N$20 million from the Namibia Tourism Board, through his company Mundial Telecom SARL.
The president is yet to say anything about it and the promised Kora award ceremony to be staged in Namibia remains a pipe dream.
When the SME Bank was facing closure in 2017, President Geingob was asked whether he had withdrawn his investment from the bank prior to its closure because he had inside information.
“As for my (in SME Bank), (it is) none of your business. My N$1,4 million was there.
I used it. Now, I only have about N$40 000 or so, which I am going to withdraw. But to tell you strictly, that is my private business,” said a clearly irate Geingob.
Months later, SME Bank became something of the past and Namibians were robbed of over N$ 200 million while employees of the now defunct bank are sitting at home, hopeless and jobless.
To add insult to injury, instead of throwing his weight behind law enforcement, Geingob vindicated those who were at the helm of the bank when millions went missing under their watch.
He defended former chairmen of the bank in the form of Frans Kapofi and George Simataa, saying they should not be blamed for the collapse of the SME Bank.
The two still occupy prominent positions in Geingob’s Cabinet – it is business as usual.
In comes Sacky Shanghala, the former Attorney General who oversaw government spending over N$40 million on a legal opinion in the Nama, Ovaherero German genocide matter.
The said legal opinion has not seen the light of day, another classic example of taxpayers’ money gone down the drain.
If this is the President’s and by extension Swapo’s way of fighting corruption, then we are left with no choice but to distance ourselves from this kind of anti-graft fight.
The president’s rhetoric, which is not accompanied by decisive action against those implicated, has shown that the head of state is not serious about fighting corruption.