Namibia: Katrina Ropes in Barry Roux

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17 January 2020

Windhoek — Convicted former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has acquired the services of top South African defence advocate Barry Roux to lead her appeal process. Hanse-Himarwa has approached the Windhoek High Court to grant her leave to appeal in the Supreme Court her conviction on a corruption charge.

A local team of lawyers from Murorua, Kurtz and Kasper Inc will instruct Roux, who is famous for representing South Africa's Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius in his murder trial. Katrina was convicted in July last year by High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg and sentenced to a fine of N$50 000 or 24 months' imprisonment plus a further 12 months suspended for five years on condition that she is not convicted of corruption during the period of suspension.

Hanse-Himarwa is fighting the conviction and says another court may come to a different conclusion. According to Roux, the finding of Judge Liebenberg that Hanse-Himarwa abused her power when she ordered the removal of two names from the Mariental mass housing list in 2016 and replaced it with two of her family members was not factually correct as she did not have the power to do so.

"The abuse of power found by this Honourable Court, namely the demand/insistence by the applicant that two persons who campaigned against Swapo be removed from the housing list and replaced with two other persons, did not fall within her office or position in a public body," Roux argued.

According to Roux, the mere fact that Hanse-Himarwa did not have the power to take control of the mass housing scheme, but merely assumed power, falls without the ambit of the section of the Anti-Corruption Act for which she was convicted. He further argued that it is imperative that Namibia's highest court should clarify the definitions of the sections as the legislature cast the net as wide as possible to bring corrupt public officials to book. While he had no qualms about the judgement itself, calling it well reasoned and thorough, he did say that it is up to the Supreme Court to decide if the approach Judge Liebenberg took was the correct one.

"We need the guidance of the Supreme Court in this regard," he stressed.

He wanted to know how one abuses power which you do not have and stressed that guidance from the Supreme Court is needed to clarify the issue.

The state is opposing the application and condonation application for the late filing of the appeal. According to Advocate Ed Marondedze for the state, the reasons Hanse-Himarwa advanced for the late filing of her appeal are not reasonable.

In her condonation application the former minister stated she ran out of funds to instruct her former defence counsel Sisa Namandje to institute the appeal and only after she appealed to supporters and entities to assist her with funds did she manage to secure enough money to instruct a new defence team to initiate the appeal process.

Marondedze rubbished this, saying Hanse-Himarwa has always bragged about her "deep pockets". He further said that she was a well-paid public servant with interests in the very lucrative fishing industry of Namibia.

According to him, Hanse-Himarwa was satisfied with the conviction and sentence, while the application for appeal was a mere afterthought.

With regard to the merits of the case, he argued that the judgement was one of the best he has encountered during his decades of practising law and that no other court will come to a different conclusion.

According to Marondedze, there is zero prospects of success on appeal as the judgement is factually and legally correct.

He further said it is not correct that the Swapo politician was convicted for assuming power instead of having power, as she never would have been in the position to influence the process had she not been governor.

"The conviction was not based on the assumption of authority, but rather the abuse of her power which came with her office as governor," Marondedze emphasised.

He asked the court to dismiss the application because of the late filing and if the court was inclined to grant the condonement, to dismiss the application for lack of merit. Judge Liebenberg reserved his judgement on the application to 3 February.

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