By Staff Reporter
Former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa can remain in parliament despite having been convicted of corruption.
Himarwa was sentenced to a fine of N$50 000 or in default of payment, to 24 (twenty four) months’ imprisonment, plus a further 12 (twelve) months’ imprisonment, suspended for a period of five years on condition that she is not convicted of a contravention of section 43(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2003, committed during the period of suspension.
Although this has the potential to block her from further rising to higher political office, but the ex-minister may still hold on to her parliamentarian seat as far as the law is concerned.
This is the view that has been expressed by legal guru and retired professor, Nico Horn.
“The rule there is even if you get convicted of an offense and you get less than N$500 000 fine and with a prison sentence of less than one year, you can still get back (to parliament). Now that she did not get a direct prison term and with the fine less than N$500 000, she can go back if she wants to,” said Horn.
Himarwa, who has gone through the walk of shame in the Windhoek High Court where she has been slammed for politicising the mass housing project in 2014 as Hardap governor was relieved when her sentence was laid down.
The court which was filled to capacity and put under police lockdown erupted into ecstatic celebration soon after the judgement with the ex-minister’s supporters bursting into song and dance.
Traffic outside court was jammed by a huge crowd that swelled to get a glimpse of Himarwa leaving court flanked by her husband and mother.
In his ruling, High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg said the factor that weighed heavily with the court was that Himarwa at the age of 52 years had no criminal record and had proved herself to be a productive member of society.
He said Himarwa had served the government at different levels with success and transgressed on this one occasion when abusing the powers vested in her office.
Ideally, the crime for which the ex-minister committed falls under Chapter 4 of the Act and which sets out the penalties that may be imposed, which is a fine not exceeding N$500 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 25 years, or to both such fine and imprisonment.
“She has been technically sent to jail,” one lawyer who refused to be named told The Patriot soon after the judgement.
The judge reasoned that Himarwa’s actions as governor did not benefit her directly. He said those who benefitted were family members already listed on the master list and due to receive houses at a later stage. “Due to her intervention, the accused further ensured that they received houses without their applications being subjected to the vetting process. Though her actions are reprehensible and to be condemned in the strongest of terms, it was not aimed at self-enrichment, but rather an error of judgment when abusing the powers vested in her office to achieve gratification for her family,” said the judge.
Liebenberg said Himarwa as governor was the representative of the President and central government in the region and, as such, had the responsibility and duty to advance and protect the government’s interests, one of which was to supervise the programme.
Unfortunately, ruled the judge, Himarwa put her interests and that of her family first and plunged government’s well intended project to assist the poor in society in controversy.
“The effect thereof is that society not only lost faith in the accused, but also in the government,” said the judge. The judge also said, “It was argued on behalf of the accused that she was not alone to be blamed and that part of the blame had to be put on the selection committee and the manner in which the list of beneficiaries was compiled.
Judge Liebenberg added that some mitigation was to be found in the fact that she knew that those persons affected by her actions were to be given other houses. It was further said that this, to a certain extent, lessens her blameworthiness. I fail to see how the accused can find comfort in the argument advanced when she, in the end, had no qualms with the list once amended to her liking.”
The Judge ruled that Himarwa had not been remorseful and that the argument that she was financially overwhelmed on account of having a N$1.4 million legal bill was flawed because she had told a journalist that she had deep pockets.
Meanwhile, Himarwa made good her bail money and walked from the court scot-free.
She had showed up in white clothing, together with Mensah-Williams and refused to speak to the media soon after the ruling.