Namibia: Death in the Time of Coronavirus

Grief-stricken family and friends of Gerhard Simson gathered at his homestead at Onathinge village in the Onayena constituency, Oshikoto region, on Saturday to console each other.

The community is still trying to come to terms with the death of Simson, his daughter Albertina Simson (27), and grandchildren Erassy Ihinda (4) and Helena Shivute (8), who died in an accident 35 kilometres from Okahandja on Thursday at around 23h00.

A statement issued by police deputy commissioner Kauna Shikwambi on Friday said the driver of a Toyota pickup, who was driving from a southern direction, was overtaking a truck when he collided head-on with an oncoming minibus.

The driver of the minibus was alone and has been identified as Junias Nande (32). He died on arrival at the hospital.

Another grandchild of Simson, an 18-year-old male, is fighting for his life at Katutura Intermediate Hospital in Windhoek.

On Saturday, The Namibian visited the house of the victims to talk to the family, who are devastated by the news.

Albertina completed Grade 12 and had pursued further studies in Zimbabwe, but had not found employment.

Simson worked at the Shell depot in Windhoek.

Frieda Afunda, a family member, told The Namibian how difficult it was for them to accept the news that they have lost four family members in an accident, with the fifth fighting for his life in hospital.

Afunda said the news came in bit by bit. First, they were told two people had died, just when it happened at around 23h00. Then the number of deaths kept increasing, she said, and they just had to sit at home and wait for an update.

"It was so difficult to process. We thought we could handle it, but . . .," she paused. By now tears were rolling down her cheeks.

"It was so shocking. It is so hard to accept. We look to God. Maybe he wants to test our faith," Afunda said. A neighbour, Simeon Shimbudhi, described Simson as a peaceful person, an adviser whose love knew no boundaries.

"He was not discriminatory. He was a neighbour who united everyone, even at work. He was an amazing person and we have lost a gem," Shimbudhi said.

President Hage Geingob announced on Thursday that only 10 people would be allowed at burials to avoid the further spread of the virus.

Although the family supports and applauds the government's efforts to avoid the further spread of the disease, Laban Kashamako, a cousin of Simson, stated that it would be impossible to maintain 10 people because they have four caskets, which cannot be carried by 10 people.

"We respect the government's rules and you have seen the washing buckets at the entrance of the house to minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus. You have also seen that we are not shaking hands. So, we are adhering to all the other instructions, but 10 people [alone] cannot work," he said.

Simson leaves behind seven children, 10 grandchildren and his wife.

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