Former Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, who was sentenced to paying a N$50,000 fine or face two years in jail on Wednesday after her conviction for corruption, was not the victim of a political witch-hunt confirms Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa.
This assertion solidly refutes allegations, social media comments and general rumors that those in the higher echelons of power plotted her fall since the corruption charges were levelled and the trial started.
Unsubstantiated claims have been made against the current Prosecutor General and the (then) Attorney General, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana alleging that the two connived to have Hanse-Himarwa fall from grace following a supposed fall out between the former Education Minister and Iivula-Ithana. The recently settled case against Hanse-Himarwa involved crimes committed in 2014.
It is not clear what the alleged fall out was about, but relations between Hanse-Himarwa and Iivula-Ithana reportedly turned sour according to sources.
It was also alleged that Iivula-Ithana instigated Imalwa, a presumed close political ally, to charge Hanse-Himarwa with the crime for which she was duly convicted - returning a favour for Iivula-Ithana, who was instrumental in the appointment of Imalwa as PG during the former’s tenure as Attorney General.
Sources also claimed that Imalwa saw it fit to charge Hanse-Himarwa, while her son and the children of other ministers, were accused of varying crimes yet, never went to trial and the incomplete cases are still collecting dust at the Prosecutor-General’s office.
Imalwa slammed these rumours and allegations saying that Hanse-Himarwa’s sentencing was not politically motivated and that people saying that have no understanding of how the law operates.
She insisted that evidence and cross examination in Hanse-Himarwa’s case were proven beyond reasonable doubt in her prosecution.
“The person instigating that it [the trial and conviction] was politically motivated must bring evidence,” she said, adding that the prosecution takes decisions based on the collection of evidence by investigators.
On the accusations that her son has never been tried for an alleged rape case, Imalwa said she had made her position clear regarding the allegations on several occasions.
“I am a lawyer by profession and follow ethics passed down by law,” she pointed out, saying that as lawyers they were subject to discipline in the Legal Practitioners’ Act. She challenged anyone with evidence in the case of her son and the other ministers’ children to come forward. When there is a case where she has an interest, she discloses her interest and stands aside from the matter.
“If you have interest in a matter and the court has put a complaint in writing, you can proceed with private investigations,” she stated, warning people to stop tarnishing others’ image with spurious and unfounded speculation.
“They should follow my trail – they will never see any link to Pendukeni,” she said, adding that her appointment as PG was not a unilateral decision taken by Iivula-Ithana, but by five members of the judiciary service commission which included the Chief Justice, Judge of the High Court, a lawyer from the Namibia Law Association, the Prosecutor General and Dave Smuts. She added that there were many candidates for the position of PG.
“How could Pendukeni alone have appointed me?” asked Imalwa, stating that the name of the successful candidate was then submitted to the President for final approval.
“People should leave me and Pendukeni alone,” she charged.
Iivula-Ithana was equally dismayed on hearing the allegations, saying that she has heard about the allegations before, but it seems that the witch-hunt is actually against her, not Hanse-Himarwa.
“People are trying to connect me to every evil deed in this country. How influential can I be in this state in which I am?” she asked, saying she does not see a connection between her and Imalwa apart from the exile commonality. “I have never served in an environment where she is. I only knew her as a competent practicing lawyer from Oshakati,” she said.
Iivula-Ithana said that in fact, Imalwa was recommended by former PG, Paul Heyman when he retired.
Ironically, the former Attorney General stated that she had sympathy for Hanse-Himarwa and has even, referred to her as her political ‘daughter’ in the past. However, she declined to give details as to what soured their relationship.
“Even her [Hanse-Himarwa] husband used to call me his “political mother-in-law,” said Iivula-Ithana before stopping short of revealing further details.
Approached for comment, Hanse-Himarwa said that she would reserve her comments regarding the witch-hunt allegations, adding that, “she was looking into everything away from public space.”
Curtains came down on one of the most suspenseful court cases when in the history of Namibia this week, the first government Minister was found guilty and sentenced for corruption.
Katrina Hanse-Himarwa was sentenced to a fine of N$50,000 or in default of payment, to 24 months’ imprisonment, plus a further 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for a period of five years on condition that the accused is not convicted of the same crime committed during the period of suspension.
Hanse-Himarwa was appointed as Minister of Education, Arts and Culture in 2015 - a position she held until 9 July 2019 when she resigned subsequent to her conviction on a charge of corruption. She remains a Member of Parliament and a member of the SWAPO Central Committee and Politburo.
Retired Professor of UNAM, Dr Nico Horn said that he predicted the outcome of a fine and added that Hanse-Himarwa was not a “real criminal.” He believes that the judge’s decision that her crime did not justify imprisonment was fair.
“I wouldn’t like to see her made to stand for everyone else’s corruption,” he argued, saying that Namibia has seen really bad corruption incidents where no one was charged or prosecuted.
“I think that the message the judge sent is clear that even with little favours, people must be careful,” he added, saying that the message is clear that politicians will not be spared for acting in corrupt ways.
However, Horn said that he had been concerned that society, anxious for punishment of any politician caught in corrupt acts, might influence court’s decision and that she would have paid a high price based on other people’s crimes.
He also noted, “Small corruption is still corruption,” and if he were in her shoes, he would not have gone back to Parliament even though the N$50,000 fine does not impede her from remaining a member of that august body.
Dr Andrew Niikondo, political commentator and Acting Vice-Chancellor: Academic at Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) was equally satisfied with the outcome of the sentencing, saying that he had full confidence in the judiciary because of its independence.
He said that he did not see any witch-hunting in the matter as the case comes a long way when Hanse-Himarwa was a Governor before her appointment as Minister. “If there was a witchhunt, she would not have proceeded to become a Minister,” he reckoned.
Many of those who attended the sentencing, mostly women clad in their Nama traditional attire, were jubilant after the sentencing, gracing it with chants and singing praises to God in front of the High Court.