More incriminating evidence against Himarwa
Education minister, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa allegedly threatened to have the mass housing handover ceremony suspended in Mariental back in December 2014 if several people on the beneficiaries list were not removed.
This was the revelation made by the advisor to the then minister of regional and local government, housing and rural development Gabriel Castro, at the opening of the trial this week.
He said that he had been dispatched by the ministry to Mariental to supervise the process of coming up with the beneficiaries list as well as to assess the quality of houses to be handed over.
Castro painted a graphic picture of what transpired in the December 2014 meeting in which Himarwa is said to have expressed unhappiness at the inclusion of two opposition leaders on the beneficiaries list.
Meanwhile, Himarwa is facing charges of corruptly using her office to remove names of the housing list to benefit her relatives.
Assisting the state in the leading of evidence in the corruption trial currently underway, Castro said people got afraid to stand their ground against Himarwa’s demands and were quiet because the conversation was conducted in a high tone.
Even the municipality’s chief executive officer dared not utter a word, he said, although he could see that his team was in disagreement with the governor.
“I had checked the list first and it complied with guidelines prior to the meeting. I believe they did a good work,” said Castro.
He testified that it came as a surprise to him that the governor called such a meeting at the 11th hour during which he resisted her demands.
“I disagreed against the politicisation of the project. My understanding was that this was a national project. We wanted a clear distribution of the houses on a first come first save basis,” said Castro.
He added that the line ministry was equally unhappy and asked him why he bowed down to her pressure.
Castro told the court that he had no option but to reach a compromise with the governor in that instead of chopping several people that she disliked on the list, two of those would only be removed to benefit later.
He said this agreement was reached because they wanted the hand-over ceremony to proceed adding, “It was my decision to do this. I had authority to do that and not the rest of the team”.
The former ministerial advisor also said Himarwa had indicated that she knew the people in Mariental better and said how the mass housing process had been conducted in other regions was not relevant in the case of her region.
“She said I am appointed by the President and I must follow his expectations and I said I too am appointed by the President. We knew at that moment what the position of both of us was,” he said.
Advocate Ed Marondedze and Advocate Salomon Kanyemba were standing in for the state.
Under cross-examination, Himarwa’s private lawyer, Sisa Namandje put it to him that according to the law the governor was not in a statutory position to allocate any houses.
To this, Castro said, “But she did it!”
He admitted that he was not present during the time when the preparation team, which he supervised, was compiling the list and only came a day before the handover event.
As the lawyer pressed harder on him in an attempt to throw out his testimony, Castro complained that he was being intimidated.
“I am not used to being pushed. This (court) environment is completely new for me. I am not here to accuse or defend anyone. I trusted my team if they said they did something well, I believed them,” he said.
The trial continues as the state leads evidence.