30 May 2012

Namibia: Church Chains Followers

Rundu — Four Namibians and two Angolans are being chained to rocks and trees with heavy metal objects by a reverend of the Apostolic Church, on the premises of his church at the Sauyemwa informal settlement in Rundu, because "they are a danger to society".

Reverend Moses Matyayi of the Protestant Apostolic Church at Sauyemwa has for several weeks incarcerated four Namibian men and two Angolans, one of them a woman who came to Namibia to seek "spiritual healing" for an unknown malady.

The reverend seemingly revered for his healing powers, says some of his detainees whom he has chained to boulders and to heavy tree trunks to prevent them from escaping will be detained until they are completely healed.

He says today's society is filled with all types of diseases and evils. The church leader, who manages a church-cum-clinic, says his patients and followers suffer because the church gets no assistance whatsoever.

Matyayi told New Era that he has "cured" many in the past through prayer only.

"Many came here walking with crutches and sticks, but if you chase him away today, you will not catch him," the man of the cloth jokingly told New Era.

Pointing to a bundle of sticks and crutches, he said people become fed up with hospitals and traditional healers and when they eventually come to him for prayers, their ailments and disabilities become a thing of the distant past.

According to the reverend, patients come from as far as Angola and various parts of Namibia to ask for his prayers.

"All these objects you see are things that patients came with from traditional healers, and when they are healed they leave them behind," he said.

Matyayi pleaded with people to stop wasting their money to get healed, because the medicine is in the Holy Bible.

"As stated in John 5:2 and Exodus 27:20, warm water and olive oil is the medicine required for dealing with any type of health problem," he said.

Matyayi said he prays for those who approach him, but ironically when their problems persist he refers them to traditional doctors and to hospitals and clinics. The church leader pleaded for good Samaritans to assist his church with food, accommodation facilities, toilets and a new church building.

"At the moment people suffer a lot, especially those that do not have relatives in Rundu. Those with relatives receive food from their families," he said.

When New Era visited the church premises, four men who are allegedly mentally ill were tied to poles under a zinc structure to prevent them from absconding.

"In the past, some of these people broke the padlocks, some even using their teeth. We have explained to their relatives why we tie up the patients and they fully understand," he said.

"These three are a danger to the public because they are very aggressive, if you look at my legs you can see the scars after they attacked me. One of them was bewitched by his neighbour in Angola, the other is from Usakos where he attacked people," he explained.

The church makes use of offerings brought by its followers to buy food and other items the patients need. Just a stone's throw from the church, about 50 tents are pitched to house about 40 prayer-awaiting patients.

According to the Regional Crime Coordinator in the Kavango Region, Deputy Commissioner Willie Bampton, the police in the region are unaware of the activities at the church where mentally ill patients are tied up with chains.

"Now that we have a bit of information, we will launch an investigation because the manner in which it is done is very cruel," Bampton said.

Chief Social Worker in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Fransiska Hamutenya, described the whole situation as "degrading".

"If someone is mentally ill it does not take away his or her rights. This is abuse," she said.

A shocked Hamutenya told New Era that there is a psychiatric health centre in Windhoek to which mentally ill patients can be referred.

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