3 January 2018

Namibia: The Moments in 2017 When Darkness Brought Light

THE people I have interviewed have taught me so much over these past 12 months.

In fact, they have not only shown me but humbled and brought me into a more profound vision of humanity.

In February I met and interviewed Elly Williams (65) who lost both her children within a few months.

First, Williams lost her daughter, Shapuline Shaduka (20), who was stabbed to death twice over a cap in Katutura, Windhoek.

The suspect, Frans 'Zunga' Nangolo and his friends wanted the cap, but Shaduka refused to hand it over.

Nangolo then allegedly stabbed her in the neck and chest, while she fought back.

In an interview a few days later, Williams said losing her lastborn under such circumstances was like losing her mind.

"She was everything to me as most of her sisters and brothers moved out of the house. We did everything together," she said.

As if that was not enough, four months after Shaduka's brutal death her son, Ruben's, decomposed body was found floating in a dam at Okakwiye village at Ondangwa.

The police arrested a cousin and his girlfriend over the death of her 36-year-old Ruben 'Balletjie' Williams.

"I have forgiven all the people who murdered my children. They are at a better place now. I know God will help us heal. It is not easy, but prayers help a lot," Williams said.

Clinical psychologist doctor Shaun Whittaker said it is not easy to forgive and that forgiving is about making a conscious decision.

Whittaker also said forgiveness could help one overcome feelings of depression, anxiety and rage, as well as personal and relational conflicts.

A Katutura woman, Helen Bougardt (68), made me realise that those who are weak and vulnerable have valuable lessons to the broader community.

When I interviewed Bougardt, she was taking care of both her husband, Jesaya, and brother, Tommy Williams, who were bedridden.

The two men who died in June, had been bedridden for more than two years when The Namibian carried the story.

During the time they were sick, the two shared a backyard room. Despite the fact that the men were incontinent, Bougardt did not give up on them until they departed.

During a visit in November, Bougardt said her husband and brother's deaths helped her reflect and start living a new life.

Part of this new life is the creche she opened and where spends her time with children.

"I feel alive and well. These children make me happy. Sometimes, they make me laugh so hard that I forget about the pain inside, and then I feel so guilty. I feel bad that people might think I have gone on with my life so soon after the deaths," Bougardt explained.

Whittaker, however, said a tragedy could sometimes give new energy to live.

"When one goes through a tragedy, you learn a lot about yourself. Although some people do not see it that way, when a loved one or loved ones die like in Bougardt's case, it is normal to feel guilty. But she got the right to start a new chapter in her life," he noted. Some of the people The Namibian featured taught me what it means to be human.

If you have had access to a toilet your entire life, you do not realise how important the facility is.

Elizabeth Ndara (97) from Yuru Village, about 38 kilometres from Rundu, got access to a toilet she could call hers last year.

For Ndara, the toilet is not just a toilet, but a symbol of dignity and privacy.

Ndara's newfound symbol of dignity was courtesy of Unicef, and the agriculture and health ministries that ran a the Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programme.

The programme, rolled out in Ohangwena, Kavango East and West regions, encourages communities to stop open defecation and build toilets for themselves.

While others would carry such a wound of rejection in their hearts for their whole lives, Memory Haoses (19) chose to talk about her HIV-positive status.

Haoses, who has been on medication since the age of three, refuses to suffer from a lack of self-esteem and be judged.

She hoped that one day, the stigma surrounding the virus would end.

Sometimes pain is a source of great strength. Even when people weep, there is comfort in being together as shown by the roadside memorial of the 10 people who died in a road accident between Okahandja and Karibib last year.

Although the atmosphere was sombre and people wept when the ceremony started, it was a warming sight when even strangers hugged and cried together.

Speaking on behalf of one of the families, Axaro Thaniseb said it was not only a tragedy to the families but a Namibian pain and loss.

"We are not here to point fingers or apportion blame but to pay tribute to our loved ones... to mourn their deaths, to share our grieve, also to celebrate their memories and lives.

"Most importantly, to take a collective stance on the dangers of reckless driving, to declare zero tolerance against the increasing road accidents that deprive us of productive, knowledgeable and competent men and women," Thaniseb said.

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