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Violence in the dark June 1, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Danger, Devastating, Ovitoto, Raaah!, Reality, Violence.

On Tuesday, I rang the Regional Councillor’s Office in Ovitoto, hoping to speak to Tjono. It had been a while since I’d last spoken to or seen him as I have been heavily tied up with office work over the weeks, but I needed to check up on the project. For once, he was there. “Ah, yes, the centre is fine. Aaaah, everything is ok.” Good, good. I then ask Tjono how he is, is he keeping warm now the winter has come, has he any news. He starts explaining about a funeral he had been to in Okahandja last weekend, and he was waiting for a taxi to go back to Ovitoto, and something something and he had to go to hospital and is still very injured. !?!?!?!?! I ask him to repeat  but don’t get much more information other than he is hurt, but “ok” (although his English is ok, he is quite difficult to understand on the telephone).

I wanted to visit Ovitoto as soon as possible. In any case, I needed to give Tjono his salary (£45/month), which it sounded like he would need right now. The earliest I could manage was yesterday, Thursday, so Brian my trusty taxi driver took me up there.
On arrival, Tjono comes over limping slightly on both legs but with a big smile on his face. “Uapenduka! Kore?”, he asks and we go about the Otjiherero greeting, which he still find very funny coming from an oshilumbu. I then set about investigating what happened. We sit down under the tree and he tells me…

Like he said, he had been in the town at a funeral and was waiting for a taxi back to the village when 8 guys come up and start beating him. He didn’t go into much detail, but they took his wallet with his ID card (Namibians must have an ID card on them at all times) and left him for dead. Somehow he got to the hospital, where he was sewn back together and patched up, and sent back to Ovitoto. He is now having regular check-ups at the local clinic.

He then showed me some of the damage. A 5 inch gash along his scalp, now sewn up. A 5 inch gash just above his kidney on his back, where he was stabbed with a knife. Open wounds on his hands and elbows where it seems he was dragged. There were others on his legs and chest which I didn’t see, but could see him whincing when he walked.

Despite all this, he was in very high spirits and gratefully accepted the little care-package I had put together for him, insisting that he was fine and not to worry. If he knew the phrase, I’m sure he would’ve said “Shit happens”.

I left him with strict instructions to eat healthily, rest, not to work and to call immediately if he gets worse or if anything like that happens again.

I chatted with some other people in the community. One said Tjono could’ve died, and I don’t doubt it. There is no reasoning as to why this happened. Tjono is a poor man with nothing of value to take, but these 8 thugs just were looking for trouble. Wrong place, wrong time. Tjono is a good and honest man, a hard worker and a friend. It just makes me so angry. Unprovoked violence constantly ravages this country. Everyday in the newspaper, there is another murder, another rape, another violent beating, but this is just what is reported or makes it to court. Children and women are the greatest subjects of abuse, and also the quietest. Beating your wife or child is a given right, it seems to be socially accepted. The black-on-black violence is severe and brutal and whimsical, often with the smallest or no provocation.
A recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit placed Namibia 64th on the Global Peace Index, out of 121 countries, listed according to their peacefulness. The indicators included levels of violence, organised crime, rape, abuse and internal conflict. Namibia came 8th out of African countries. The UK is at 49th place, the USA at 96th. Relatively speaking, Namibia is a safe and peaceful place (look at neighbours Angola and Zimbabwe, which were in the bottom 5). But it’s what happens behind closed doors, or in the dark of the night, that doesn’t make it into the surveys.

Namibia has 17 years of Independence, which is 17 years since the oppression, the apartheid, the war and the genocide (yes, the genocide by the occupying whites that never made the news or got documented). Crime levels today have improved greatly in comparison. But for a nation that has lived in varied degrees of violence for over a century, it is not surprising that these random beatings, stabbings and violent acts towards one another are treated just as passing events.



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