6 March 2018

Namibia: Minister in Court for Corruption

THE prosecutor general has decided that education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa should stand trial in the Windhoek High Court on a charge of having corruptly used her former office as governor of the Hardap region.

The minister made a brief appearance in the Mariental Magistrate's Court yesterday on a charge of contravening section 43(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act by corruptly using her office or position to obtain gratification for herself or another person.

Hanse-Himarwa was not asked to plead, and presiding magistrate Anna Kruger transferred her case to the High Court for a pretrial hearing scheduled for 21 June.

She remains free on a warning from the court.

The charge against the minister originates from events which occurred between 15 and 16 December 2014, when she was still the governor of Hardap.

According to the indictment on which Hanse-Himarwa will be arraigned in the High Court, she is accused of having removed the names of Regina Kuhlman and Piet Fransman from the Mariental mass housing programme beneficiary list, and replacing them with those of Justine Josephine Gowases and Christiana Lorraine Hansen, who are her niece and sister-in-law, respectively.

The beneficiary list which the minister allegedly tampered with was compiled by a team comprising staff members of the Mariental municipality and the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, who were tasked with the vetting and selection of applicants from the list of applicants as per the Build Together programme.

The beneficiary list had been compiled for houses which government had constructed at Mariental, and which were earmarked for low and middle-income earners under the mass housing development programme.

The houses were due to be handed over to beneficiaries on 17 December 2014.

Family and friends, among others Hardap governor Esme Isaack and National Council chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams, attended yesterday's court hearing to express support for Hanse-Himarwa.

The minister appeared calm during the court session, and posed when journalists asked to photograph her after the matter was postponed.

Deputy prosecutor general Anita Meyer appeared for the state, with the court being informed that Hanse-Himarwa had enlisted the services of defence lawyer Sisa Namandje.

This is not the first time that the minister has landed in court on a charge of corruption.

Divisional magistrate Alfred Siboleka (now a High Court judge) in 2009 acquitted the minister, who was still the Hardap governor at that stage, after a three-day trial on two counts of corruption, to which she had pleaded not guilty.

One of the charges related to soliciting N$3 290 for the sewing of curtains for her official residence, and inflating and wrongfully allocating a curtain supply tender to a relative. This was dropped by the prosecutor after her defence counsel successfully argued that the latter offence had been committed before the Anti-Corruption Act was enacted in 2005.

Hanse-Himarwa was found not guilty, and also acquitted on the remaining charge - that of misappropriating N$2 000 from the Hardap Regional Council's entertainment fund.

Siboleka said then that he was unable to find her guilty on the evidence presented in court.

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