THE corruption conviction of now former Minister of Education, me. Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, is a democratic landmark and motion of confidence in Namibian sovereignty, rule of law and an independent judiciary from which regimes in a world of turmoil should learn.
But let Namibians first spare a thought for Namibian jurists before and after Independence who are in the frontlines of securing an independent judiciary guaranteeing dignity and equality before the law. The apartheid-regime and the Swapo government will testify that an independent judiciary at best is an irritant and at worse an obstacle to unaccountable leaders. Namibians must remember that at the end all Judges are the first line of defence in an independent judiciary, but they are flesh and blood with the immense pressures that judgement brings on those that must mete out justice and protect the weak.
Ironically, the conviction of “Minister” Hanse-Himarwa earned the title of being an “honourable”, which she should wear as a badge of courage and which should carry her through the lonely and dark valley of shame and rejection, although she earned it by the bravery she summoned when she resigned from maybe one of the most prestigious ministries in the Namibian Cabinet.
Being infected with a political virus of division and factionalism, Namibia must take comfort from the fact that the President, Dr Hage Geingob, as original Chairman of the Constitutional process and now Protector-in-chief of the Supreme Law, steered the Namibian ship of leadership transformation through the storms on the course of nationhood for the past three decades.
Namibians should collectively heave a sigh of relief that President Geingob did not bow to political and nearly unanimous citizens’ pressures to fire the Minister when she was charged, but waited until proven guilty.
Even his worst enemies must admit that Geingob’s decision to let the law take its course was not popular with friends and foes baying for her blood. In what could only be the result of constitutional duty and justice, Dr Geingob resisted when he could have easily done the popular thing in an election year by firing Hanse-Himarwa.
Within just a few hours, the Minister of Education fell from that chair to a convicted citizen whose sentencing is still a mountain on the road to get her life back. However, by resigning, she set a historical benchmark and signalled the end of the “untouchables” and “impunity”.
Dr Geingob had the unpleasant task of accepting the disappointment of an appointment and investment in a fellow Namibian.
Hanse-Himarwa and Namibians also had the opportunity to see the false courage that comes from self-appointed praise singers edging her on and true courage when hard and painful self-sacrificing decisions must be made that leads to rejection and loneliness.
Me. Hanse-Himarwa should find solace in the fact that she – as a convicted and disgraced minister – displayed honour and accountability that magnifies the double standards and lack of courage of some of her comrades, glaringly.
Tobie Aupindi is convicted as member of the Swapo Central Committee for providing false information to the Anti-Corruption Commission, but could not find the same courage as that of Hanse-Himarwa.
In 2015, the Swapo Politburo reinstated Marina Kandumbu on the Swapo parliamentary list after she was convicted and fined on corruption charges in the Rundu Magistrate’s Court. They overruled an ethical and correct decision by the then top four leaders – Pohamba, Geingob, Mbumba and McLeod to remove her.
Me. Hanse-Himarwa will find that Namibians are a society that forgives easily, because they are a nation of second and third chances. They don’t kick people when they are down and especially not if they demonstrate courage and accountability.
She will always be the reminder that Namibia is the Land of the Brave, as well as the Land for the not so brave.
Fortunately, democracy will take note and take care of the opportunists, factionalists and interest groups hiding behind the small print and manage to ignore their own conscience.
Namibia should give the disgraced minister time to pick up the pieces, and according to the deep rooted values, assist her when she can bend no more.