All media houses are opining on the guilty verdict against the (now) former Minister of Education, Arts and Culture Katrina Hanse-Himarwa and her subsequent resignation.
Social media is blowing up with public outcries about corruption. Group conversations at events and in the corridors across Namibia are decrying the fact that a convicted criminal is still an “Honourable” in the Parliament and served as the president’s hand-picked Cabinet minister. Regardless of her resignation from her ministerial post, the administration took a black eye on the issue of corruption in government the second Hanse-Himarwa stepped into the dock.
It is evident that the former minister had to exit the administration quickly whether she jumped or was pushed. Hopefully, she has resigned with her head held high, not in defiance with an “I don’t care” attitude, but in a humble and remorseful, “I did wrong and will now work to be better,” frame of mind.
While we refuse to be tagged as a member of the various ‘camps’ arising in the wake of this scandal, i.e., those supporting the former minister and those ready to burn her at the stake, we believe it would have been unseemly to hang on to her high office with her lacquered, pearl-tipped fingernails. We look forward to her resignation from Parliament with immediate effect. Her very presence in that august body taints every other Parliamentarian and all that our democratic government strives to achieve in terms of integrity in leadership.
Her ministerial resignation letter thanking the president and stating her ‘apology’ at being an embarrassment to her colleagues and the integrity of the entire Geingob Administration, is well received. Completely exiting the stage with grace is preferable. The debate must not focus on any single personality, but on the issues on the table; a just legal system that worked, a clear conviction of a high level official and the aggressive pursuit of all others doing far worse corrupt actions than the former minister.
That said, we believe that someone can no longer be an ‘Honourable’ when they are a convicted purveyor of corruption and dubbed as a liar. It cannot be forgotten that the judge directly stated that the minister’s version of events in the case was a “blatant lie.” This is a devastating condemnation from the distinguished bench.
The law says that people who have been convicted and sentenced to prison for more than 12 months cannot be members of Parliament. As the sentencing hearing for the former minister will not occur until July 24th, there is no legal basis compelling Hanse-Himarwa to relinquish her seat. However, we believe that a dignified exit from that august house where she is an “Honourable” while being convicted of corruption, is in order.
When/if the former minister leaves the Parliament, she could receive a substantial pay-out based on her tenure in that House, so her landing will not be a bumpy one. In any event, given the short memory of the Namibian public, she could, in the future be appointed to another high ranked posting such as an ambassadorship, head of delegation to an international event or chairman of a commission.
Right now, with the public angst over the drought, the climate of financial and job insecurity and rising anger about systemic inequities, this guilty verdict speaks volumes to the public. People point to the former minister as the poster child for corruption in government. That attitude will persist for some time to come.
Nevertheless, the end of the trial has a silver lining. With a new education minister to be appointed, the ministry can now focus on its mandate instead of fretting over the scandal. Our school children are desperate for a proper education and their needs must be at the top of the line minister’s mind with no distractions.
Some in the public are giving back-handed support to Hanse-Himarwa by complaining that others who have stolen tens of millions or perpetrated corrupt acts on more damaging levels are free from arrest and public humiliation.
We are firm that corruption in all quarters must be put in check and those charged with battling corruption must redouble their efforts to go after all who are participating in illegal activities.
We are adamant that the weak-kneed ACC must not sit back on its laurels and preen over this case against one big fish. There are other dirty fish swimming around feeling untouchable.
After the guilty verdict, Paulus Noa, Director-General of Anti-Corruption Commission said that the public must assist in such prosecutions by giving solid evidence against perpetrators. He is right. Cases are won with provable facts not anonymous tips and rumours. We hope that this successful case against the minister opens the evidentiary floodgates and others are brought to book.
There are voices who claim that this long-running case against Hanse-Himarwa over an event that happened five years ago, came to a head during this election year for curious political reasons. Could this be a case where the administration wants to counter the cacophony of claims that government is ‘soft’ on corruption by offering up one minister on the altar of supposed reform? Could this be an ugly tribal slap where someone from the North or from other ethnic backgrounds doing the same thing (or worse) gets a pass and this particular minister goes down? Others are criticising people in authority who are overly ‘consoling’ Hanse-Himarwa after the verdict, in a way that appears to condone corruption or cast aspersions on the court process.
While these kinds of points are being raised, all are spurious theories and none erase the fact that in a proper court of law, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa was found guilty and has begun to face the backlash from her own actions. We look forward to the immediate resignation of her Parliamentary seat and the beginning of a productive healing process for her and the nation.