Child murders have dominated news headlines for decades now. The brutal and inhumane killing of defenceless children have seen an outpour of rage with civil society bodies calling for Government to act decisively, and calls for the re-introduction of the dreaded death penalty to stem the wave of these killings are ringing louder.
In a country largely divided, something that seemingly unites Namibians is the fear of crime. The macabre series of murders involving women and children has shown the degree to which ordinary Namibians feel afraid to make use of public spaces, and the extent to which children’s ability to play is limited as a result. Most of these murders often go unresolved and questions have since been raised whether the police have the capacity to probe complex murders. Should you be the parent of a murdered, yet unresolved crime – how are you expected to live with a sense of justice ?
The Patriot went down memory lane and revisited three of the child murders that rocked Namibia between 2001 and 2018, notable for the fact that the killers continue to evade arrest.
Nine-year-old Cheryl Ujaha’s death is our latest incident in a litany of personal loss caused by violence in the country on learners.
Her badly mutilated body was found dumped in nearby bushes, three days after she was reported missing. Ujaha’s hands, lower arms, one foot, ribs, one thigh and the neck were missing. It is suspected that her killer could have boiled her body before dumping it about two kilometres from her home.
In August 2001, there was huge public outcry over the brutal murder of Johannes Natangwe Shikoyeni whose body was found in a naked state with a severely cut throat in the yard of the Duinesig Primary School at Kuisebmond by the school caretaker. The perpetrator is still at large.
Nine years later, Dawid Bezuidenhout High School pupil Magdalena Stoffels’ body was found with her throat slit but still alive in a riverbed near her school at the end of July 2010. She died shortly after being found. The perpetrator is still at large.
Stoffels was a pupil at when she was brutally raped and murdered in a riverbed near the Windhoek College of Education in Khomasdal.
Other brutal murders that remain unresolved, albeit of older persons, include that of 36-year-old Sanna //Garoes’ in June 2005. Her torso that was dissected into two was found in a rubbish bin at a lay by next to the B1 road. In August 2005, 22-year-old Melanie Janse’s body was discovered lying next to the Western Bypass near the Van Eck Power station. Janse’s body was also found naked.
In October 2005, 21- year old Juanita Mabula, was found decapitated next to a section of the Western Bypass. Her head was found lying next to the B1 road between Windhoek and Rehoboth.
In December 2005, 18-year old Viola Swartbooi had gone missing from her home was found buried naked in a shallow grave at Rehoboth.
The issue of unresolved murders has taken centre stage over the years and Nampol, this week, conceded that unresolved murder cases remain a challenge.
Khomas Regional Police Crime Investigation Coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Abner Agas said “unresolved murder cases are a concern to the police just as it is a concern to everybody else.”
“The police is trying to do all it can to find these killers but for us to be able to do this we need the public’s assistance. The crimes committed is happening within the public and some people might have witnessed it but remain silent,” lamented Agas.
He said if there is no information from the public it becomes difficult to track down the killers.
“That’s why we are always appealing to the public to assist the police. From our[police] point of view we are doing all we can to solve these crimes,” he responded when asked whether the increasing number of unresolved murder cases affects the public’s confidence in the police to apprehend murderers.
The Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Doreen Sioka this week said her ministry is worried because child murders are on the rise.
She says government has done its best to formulate policies aimed at assisting people to live in harmony.
“I would like to caution parents and caretakers to really keep an eye on the young ones so that the evil people do not get a chance to lure them out of the sight of parents and family members, and so that they do not become victims and be abused or killed,” she said.
She lamented that women and children “have become endangered human beings in their own country irrespective of government’s efforts to curb these types of violence”.
A killer’s mental state
Clinical Psychologist Cynthia Uamuina Beukes unpacked some of the reasons that lead people to commit heinous crimes without any remorse.
“There are many reasons why people commit such horrendous crimes, predictors for violence include a history past violence, physical abuse, and juvenile delinquency. In most cases when people hear of such crimes, in their minds, the perpetrator is male. Age is another predictor. We do not expect the very young or elderly to commit such crimes,” she explained. She however made exception in addressing personality disorders.
“Personality disorders are a whole different story and the scariest. Anti- social personality disorder (psychopaths) are not the same as asocial. Asocial is what people mean when they say anti-social. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition defines it as a pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others. These people have no remorse and often justify their hurting of others. They have total disregard for other people’s safety and easily break laws and are deceitful. The sad thing is Anti-social personality disorder can be picked up early and intervention may make a huge difference. During their childhood, they often have conduct disorder (lying, stealing, and destroying property, oppositional towards authority figures. These can be nabbed in the butt but when children do these parents fail to parent them and make excuses for them,” she said.
Societal factors that push people to committing such crimes, said Beukes, include context- stressors caused by unemployment (currently very high in Namibia), having experienced some kind of loss (jobs, divorce, death) or having experienced violence. Violence can be direct or even just witnessing crimes. Experiencing crimes vicariously is a traumatic experience. The nation is shook by these crimes.
“Clinical- substance abuse, organic brain disorder, seizure disorder, personality disorders, bipolar 1 disorder and schizophrenia. Notice that Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia are last in the list. That is because such instances are very rare even though people always associate mental illness with danger. In fact studies have shown that substance abuse is the biggest contributing factor in acts of violence. Substance abuse is very prevalent in Namibia especially alcohol abuse, Beukes noted.
Beukes said being violent and tolerating violence also perpetuates the killing spree.
Descending morality thermometer
The country’s biggest youth political organisation, Swapo Party Youth League yesterday expressed concern because children can no longer enjoy freedom, a situation that leaves women and parents in constant fear for their lives and safety as well as that of their children.
SPYL Khomas SPYL Regional Secretary Paulus Emmanuel says “the thermometer of morality in Namibia is descending to below zero almost on a daily basis”
“Wives and girlfriends are beaten by their husbands and boyfriends as if it is the new fashion. Women are killed by men who claim to love them. As a youth organ, we denounce the escalating incidents of gender based violence, especially the gruesome crimes against the girl child in the Region and Country at large,” he said.
Immanuel wants more financial and material resources to be invested into law enforcement agencies. “We are also calling for effective cooperation and coordination of our law enforcement agencies, Nampol and City Police to ensure the safety of our residents.
We ask for increased support to the men and women in uniform as well as financial investment to the security of our citizens,” said the City of Windhoek councillor.
SPYL in Khomas encouraged all members to join the current structures of Women and Men Network and all other crime prevention Institutions within their respective Districts. He also wants more surveillance cameras to be erected in crime prone areas such as Katutura and Khomasdal. Immanuel called on community members to assist the police when it comes to fighting crime.
“Let us not only condemn crime when gruesome acts such as this one happen but should condemn crime every day. Let us be a society that has zero tolerance for crime no matter the level, with this attitude we leave no room for criminals in our neighbourhoods, society, city and country at large. It is our call that we stop making rhetoric comments when gruesome acts of this nature happen and only then become reactive, let us take a stand and each day fight out crime in our neighbourhoods, communities and Country at large. Let there be no place for criminals in our communities, however we can only achieve this by actively doing something about crime each day and being consistent in our efforts,” he said.
The decline in morality has caused an increase in Crime in our society, he said.