By Megamemo Shikwambi
Disgraced former education minister, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has opted to gamble with her corruption case as she towards the end of 2019 applied for leave to appeal after her conviction on charges of corruption perpetrated while she was still Hardap Governor.
Hanse-Himarwa was found guilty and fined for corruptly using her office as governor to benefit two of her cronies in the ill-fated mass-housing project in Hardap.
Given the uncertainties that such a move at the High Court before Judge Christie Liebenberg has, the former minister’s attempt to be exonerated through a Supreme Court judgment could be seen as taking a huge risk. To begin with, Himarwa will have to face the same judge that found her guilty of the crime, as it would be his duty to review the judgement after her submissions this week to see whether he erred in law to find her guilty.
As such, the judge is faced with the task to determine whether there were any deficiencies in his judgement and whether she has any prospects of success if the matter is to be heard in the upper and final court of appeal.
A key component of the review will evaluate whether she was convicted correctly in the first and the secondly whether the sentencing was indeed appropriate.
Meanwhile, Hanse-Himarwa whose precarious financial position was made known when she cited the hefty legal bill owed to prominent lawyer, Sisa Namandje has roped in top South African advocate, Barry Roux.
The Patriot is informed that Himarwa’s application to appeal will cost her in the range of N$1 million while Roux charges in the region of N$70 000 per day.
However, prominent lawyer, Norman Tjombe has cautioned that the Supreme Court may open fresh wounds to the case which may bring a harsher sentence than the one determined by the High Court.
Tjombe cautions that should the Supreme Court rule on a harsher sentence, Himarwa will not be able to appeal.
The High Court Judgement
In his ruling in 2019, 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. 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.
The crime which the ex-minister committed falls under Chapter 4 of the Act and 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. 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”, stated Liebenberg.