Namibia: Minister Told 'Blatant Lie'

Education Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa.

Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa lied under oath and gave a false version in the High Court during her trial on a charge under the Anti-Corruption Act.

This was one of the damning findings that judge Christie Liebenberg made against Hanse-Himarwa in the judgement in which he yesterday convicted her on a charge of corruptly using an office or position to obtain gratification.

By denying that she had a meeting with officials from the then housing ministry and the Mariental municipality on 16 December 2014, in the face of "overwhelming evidence" by four state witnesses who contradicted her version, the only reasonable conclusion to come to was that

Hanse-Himarwa "did not take the court fully into her confidence, and tried to mislead the court by contriving the facts to favour her version," judge Liebenberg remarked in his judgement.

He continued: "In an attempt to exonerate herself from the incriminating evidence of four state witnesses, she deliberately decided to mislead the court by testifying under oath that the meeting of the 16th December never took place - this was a blatant lie."

The judge added: "Though one can clearly see why she decided to follow this route in that she wanted to distance herself from evidence that exposed her governance and enforcement of her own will as governor of the region at the meeting, the fact remains that it did not pay off. Consequentially, her evidence in this regard is rendered false beyond reasonable doubt."

Briefly addressing media reporters in the Windhoek High Court after she had been pronounced guilty, Hanse-Himarwa (52) said her views of the case were "completely different" from what judge Liebenberg had ruled.

"It is just another human being that has listened to the case the way that I have been listening to it, and the way my lawyers have listened to it. My view is completely different from what the judge has been viewing, and what he has decided on today. [...] We will study the judgement, and for sure, this is not the end," she said.

Hanse-Himarwa also acknowledged that the guilty verdict would have an impact on her political career - but said she was not bothered by it because it "is nothing".

"It is obvious that it has its own impact on your political career, but that for me is not even the end," she said.

She also stated: "I am not moved because this is nothing."

Asked whether she would resign from her position as minister, Hanse-Himarwa said: "Let's hear the way forward. I will keep you posted."

Hanse-Himarwa is the most highly placed political office-bearer yet convicted on a charge investigated by Namibia's Anti-Corruption Commission. She remains free on a warning from the court, and has to return to the dock on 24 July for the start of a presentence hearing.

ACC director general Paulus Noa yesterday said the judgement showed that the fight against corruption needed collaboration between members of the public and investigators.

"Cases depend on how much members of the public are prepared to give evidence to the investigators. Without evidence, the court cannot pronounce itself in favour of the state. But if people are not willing to provide evidence, the court cannot do anything, and they will continue to accuse the ACC of not doing anything," he stated.

Judge Liebenberg convicted Hanse-Himarwa on a charge of corruptly using an office or position to obtain gratification for herself or another person after finding that there was "overwhelming evidence" showing that she was present at a meeting at Mariental on 16 December 2014, and that she directed officials from the then housing ministry and the Mariental municipality at the meeting to make changes to a list of people selected to receive houses built under the government's mass housing development programme at the town.

The changes involved the removal of the names of two people from the list, and the addition of two other names - the one a sister-in-law of Hanse-Himarwa, while the other was also a relative of hers - to the list.

The judge concluded that the evidence heard during the trial established beyond reasonable doubt that Hanse-Himarwa, as Hardap governor, "clearly abused the power and authority vested in her office" when insisting that the list of beneficiaries under the mass housing development programme should be amended to her satisfaction, thereby ensuring that at least one of her family members directly benefit from her actions.

Judge Liebenberg also commented that he found any suggestion that the four witnesses who implicated Hanse-Himarwa regarding the meeting of 16 December 2014 acted in concert to falsely incriminate her "preposterous and unsubstantiated by the established facts". He noted that two of the four witnesses did not know her before the meeting, while the other two had a good relationship with her before and after the meeting.

Defence lawyer Sisa Namandje charged throughout the trial that ACC investigators concocted a case against Hanse-Himarwa - but in the end failed to convince judge Liebenberg on that score as well, with the judge finding that there was no evidence to substantiate any claim that the prosecution of Hanse-Himarwa and her trial were the result of a conspiracy between the ACC and state witnesses, and that she had been deprived of a fair trial.

The state is being represented by deputy prosecutor general Ed Marondedze, assisted by Salomon Kanyemba.

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