Her Name Was Ndjinaa

The following was written in Afrikaans by an anonymous writer who was deeply touched by the story of Ndjinaa… (Below the original piece is a translation by myself.

…haar naam was Ndjinaa

Daar is n storm in my hart wat broei. Soos Simson van ouds, n passie n droom. Dan sien ek haar vasgeketting soos n mal dier in die stof n bondel flenters bene. Haar oe is wild en verward haar gebabbel in die wind; almal lag, en is bang, die ou mal-vrou.

 Ek kyk na haar ek sien in haar verlepte oe, hoe sy smeek in haar wereld van stilte en seer. Onderhandelinge harde woorde omgee woorde sagte woorde jy is vasgevang in my.

 Dan die geklingel van n ketting wat breek jou gebreekte lyf, n siel stukkend vertrap, sak jy weg in n sinkbad in die stof. Sag gebad in die land van melk en heuning. Toegevou in meter en meters goud sag om jou lyf. Jou oe kyk na my vir n oomblik was jy daar. Dankbaar vir jou!,  witman ongeag jou kleur elke dag vir jare, myle en myle ver, het my gebabbel in die wind geloop soek na jou, tot jy my kon hoor, my roep in stile na jou. Jy het my gehoor jy het my kom gesoek en op n dag het jy my,  die malvrou uit kettings kom red, en die wereld gewys ek is net n Ovahimba vrou, vasgevang in my eie stiltes, ou jare se drome en tyd….

… her name was Ndjinaa         

 (freely translated – emdt.)

There is a storm brewing in my heart.

Like a Simpson;

I have a passion; a dream.

Then I see her,

An animal chained to the dust.

A heap of bones, shattered.

Wild eyed, the wind carry her troubled babble,

They laugh; they are scared,

The crazy old woman.

I look at her and in tired eyes

I hear her begging in a world of quiet and hurt.

We trade harsh words

Caring words

Soft words.

In me, you are captured.

Then finally,

Metal chains are cut.

Your broken body,

A trampled soul,

Eases into a sink bath on a dry earth.

Softly bathed in a world clothed with milk and honey,

Cradled around your body, meters of gold.

For a moment you are visible in tired eyes.

Thankful for you; white man!

Regardless of colour,

My babble were carried on the wind

Days, years… for miles and miles

It went to find you, white man.

You heard me,

You heard my silent cry for help.

You came looking for me

And then you came to save a crazy old woman in chains

And showed the world

An ordinary Ovahimba woman

Caught in her own silence,

In years of dreams and time gone by…

(If you have missed the story of Ndjinaa, please click here)

The Story of Chief Petrus (6)

The Story of Chief Petrus & 2014 in Review (Final)

He was on the brink of receiving a government loan to start-up a massive workshop in Okahandja when a mysterious disease took hold of him. Since then Namibia’s state doctors has been keeping him on a strict diet of Hadol without ever referring him to a specialist. And so this has continued for nine years…

There on the pavement in front of the Arts & Craft Centre I call the offices of Neurologist Dr Vaja Tjajirua. After explaining who I am, his secretary tells me that they can only help with an opeing in February 2015, but if he goes to the state hospital in Katatura on Tuesdays, Petrus can see the Dr Vaja there as he works there every Tuesday.

The following Tuesday Izak (Chief Petrus’ son) calls me from Katatura State Hospital after explaining to me what the they don’t want to help Petrus. I get on the phone with the nurse on call and she then tells me that Petrus has to return to the Okahandja State Hospital where he needs to get a reference from the doctor to come to Katatura. If I was a car, my gasket would have blown. For the last nine years Chief Petrus has visited the Katatura State Hospital and not once was he referred to Dr Vaja. Now he needed a referral?! I begged and I pleaded, but they could not help Chief Petrus without a referral.

Having calmed down, I called the doctor’s offices again. The secretary assured me that she has never heard of such a thing as needing a reference. In the four years that they have worked at the Katatura State Hospital, this has not happened once. (How was this possible?!)

I called Izak again, but no luck. They simply refuse to help him. Fortunately the secretary calls as they have had a cancellation and Chief Petrus can see the doctor the very next day. ADN decides to sponsor Chief Petrus’ consultation fees and book the appointment.

On the 17th November 2014 I return to Okahandja and go to see Chief Petrus and Izak. According to Izak, Dr Veja welcomed them like family. He sent Chief Petrus back to the Katatura State Hospital for a MRI and blood tests on the 8th December. He also told them that the medicine that Chief Petrus was using, was the wrong medicine (really?!).

I am yet to hear from them again but I sure will keep you posted. All that I know as I write this is that Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia will fight harder than ever in 2015 to win the struggle for people with dementia in Namibia.

Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia is excited about 2015. We look forward to all the new moves and also the struggles. If you would like to become part of our small family, please contact us.

All the best,

Berrie Holtzhausen

The Story of Chief Petrus (5)

The Story of Chief Petrus

At the end of our research trip (2014 Review – Part 4) we stopped at Okahandja’s Craft market so that Susanne could buy a few souvenirs.

As Susanne ‘shopped’ I told the owner of the stall, Black Jack, who we were and what we did. He immediately said that this sounds like this sounds all too familiar. He called Chief Petrus, who opened these stalls 35 years ago. As we talked to Chief Petrus, I noticed that his right hand made uncontrolled movements and that he licked his lips as he spoke. Unfortunately we could not talk for long as we had to get to Windhoek in time for Susanne’s flight back home.

A few months later I had to meet Michaela Fink from the University in Giessen, in Windhoek. On my return home I stopped in Okahandja and went looking for Black Jack. Having found Black Jack, he introduced me to the Chief’s son, Izak. Izak showed me the Chief’s green card. Here in Namibia a green card is not your ticket to the United States. It is a ‘file’ on which all state hospitals and doctors record prescription medicine etc. Every state patient thus has a green card.

It was no surprise to find that since 2005, Chief Petrus has been on Hadol (Haloperidol). This is the most common drug that the doctors throughout Namibia prescribe to any patient that has the slightest brain dysfunction. To me, this means that Chief Petrus has been chained in chemical chains for nine years! Nine years in which his quality of life has been stolen while people get rich from selling these horrible drugs. Let me explain myself.

Chief Petrus was (and possibly still is) an incredible sculptor. He not only created jobs for thousands by starting the Okahandja Arts & Craft Market, he also sculpted three life size rhinoceroses. One is in Germany, the second at a lodge close to Kimberly (South Africa) and another at Molopo Lodge close to Upington (South Africa).

He was on the brink of receiving a government loan to start-up a massive workshop in Okahandja when a mysterious disease took hold of him. Since then Namibia’s state doctors has been keeping him on a strict diet of Hadol without ever referring him to a specialist. And so this has continued for nine years…

The Result?

Chief Petrus’s right hand shakes so badly that he can hardly work. He is still the Chief, but his dreams and many that he has helped, was destroyed in 2005 with the first prescription of Hadol and irresponsible practise of medicine. People that are seen as poor and useless, they have no right to proper medical attention. I can never really know what Chief Petrus has meant to so many people and what he still means, but I am about to fight for every bit of right he has.

chief petrus

2014: The Year in Review (4)

2014: The Year in Review (4)

2014 was also a year of new beginnings and new projects. Like the first dementia friendly shop in Henties Bay.

In 2014 we also started with intense research on dementia in Africa.

There was the research trip to the Zambezi districtADN with Susanne. On this trip a very important connection was formed with the University of Namibia that will hopefully lead to a new course for nurses in 2016.

During our research trip we discovered that HIV/Aids is possibly a bigger cause of dementia in Africa than Alzheimer’s Disease. We also discovered that a lot of HIV/Aids patients stop using their medicine because the pills give them stomach problems due to the fact that they cannot afford a plate of food per day. And secondly, Susanne and I came to the conclusion that the pills are sold in order to buy food.

We met Leopoldine in the Kavango region who possibly has HIV/Aids related Dementia. Her family sees her as a witch because of her hallucinations and other strange behaviour. They believe that Leopoldine must starve to death so that the evil spirits in her can also die. Needless to say, she has no food and therefore cannot take her medicine. Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia has thus organised that she receives at least one plate of food per day to enable her to take her medicine.

At the end of our research trip we stopped at Okahandja’s Craft market so that Susanne could buy a few souvenirs. Here we met Black Jack and Chief Petrus who opened the market 35 years ago. But this is a story on its own.

Until next time…

2014: The Year in Review (3)

2014: The Year in Review (3)

What we discovered:

It came to light that many Africans and also the world seems to think that brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Bodies etc. does not exist here in Namibia (Africa). But why?

The first reason I formulated one day after randomly meeting a German tourist in Etosha. He stopped next to me, rolling down his window and looked at the sticker on my door. He said: “Am I really reading what I think I am reading?” I asked him what it is he thinks he is reading. He asked: “Is there dementia in Africa?” I laughed as I responded: “Well, in Africa, like all over the world, people have brains. And if you have a brain, you can get brain diseases.” He was somewhat embarrassed but then explained himself by saying that from his medical background he knows that Africans and especially here in Namibia, there is a very low life expectancy (57 for men and 59 for women). So how can there be brain diseases? Well, you see, brain diseases like Alzheimer’s are not limited to the aged. This is a fairly common misconception and secondly, the life expectancy is an average brought down by a very high infant mortality rate. So yes, people do get old in Namibia (Africa) and no, it is not only the elderly that suffers from brain diseases.

The second reason is that people from around the world seem to think that the black African cultures have not discovered the Western world’s foods and medicines. (This is only my perception and not based on any facts.) And since the rest of the world is discovering what all the food and medicine do to our systems, they think that Africans cannot possibly have the same problems as they don’t eat and drink like they do. The truth is that our black cultures are using and abusing the same food and medicines that the rest of the world is using, but without the necessary precautions.

To be Continued….

2014: The Year in Review (2)

2014: The Year in Review (2)

The visitors:

The Swedish film crew that I took to Epupa so that they could film and capture Ndjinaa’s life story. The same film crew who then incidentally disappeared with all the material and has never been heard from again. It was my first experience of the “world” seeing Africa as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Then there was Professor Reimer Grunemeyer and Doctor Michaela Fink from the University of Giessen whom I also took up to Epupa to spend some time at the dementia village. We (Koos and I), taught Prof Reimer how to drink whisky and he exchanged his old faithful cap for an Epupa Falls Lodge one to the surprise of his colleagues. (His old red cap now hangs in Koos’s office among dozens of others which he has been collecting as souvenirs.)

There was also the debate with three witch doctors from Angola that must have been quite an experience for the German sociologists present. Especially when I confronted the witch doctors and told them that they were mere conmen using the superstitions of Africans to collect goats, chickens etc. for their own profit. I still don’t understand why the professor was so upset?

And in between:

ADN started to communicate to different towns about becoming dementia friendly. At the end of the year I have visited Okahandja, Gobabis, Outjo, Henties Bay and finally also Maltehohe.

Henties Bay Spar Staff

And of course there was the usual fights that happens within and outside any organisation in the world.

To be continued…


2014 : The Year In Review (1)

2014: The Year in Review

As we started 2015 in fifth gear, it is important for Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia to look back at 2014 and recognise our achievements and our highlights as well as the pitfalls to learn and look forward to another year of endless surprises and achievements.

What we remember:

We remember a Kaputu that got very ill and was taken to Opuwo State Hospital. From here she just disappeared and we eventually found her in the Oshakati State Hospital in Ward 16 on a very thin ledge between life and death.

But we also remember the day that I, Berrie, had the privilege to return her to the Omaramba. When she finished her psychotic pills, Koos and I decided not to replace them or to return her to the Opuwo State Hospital.

Koos kept me up to date with Kaputu’s slow but sure revival and renewed strength. She started talking and then to eat and drink by herself. Then she started going to the bush to collect berries. The highlight came when she took berries from her collection and put some in Koos’s shirt pocket on one of his visits.

We remember how we started to take fencing and all the accessories to our new location. Mopani poles were cut and prepared for the border of Mbakutuka Komapando (MK). Gabriel worked very hard to finish the fence after Koos delivered the gates for the first ever Himba Dementia Village.

And then there was the Saturday in March that the foreigners helped us move the tented village where Ndjinaa, Kaputu and the three care workers (Tjauriza, Nancy & Venoo) have stayed for the last fourteen months to MK. On that hot Saturday Ndjinaa taught me how to listen. (You can read the full story here).

To be continued…


The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Part 5)

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Zambezi Region, Namibia)

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, 21st August 2014

I personally learned the following from our four days in the Zambezi Region:

  1. Dementia in Namibia (probably Africa) is caused mainly by HIV AIDS.
  2. The perception of the world that dementia is only found among the elderly, is proven wrong in Namibia.
  3. Everything in life, from draughts, the loss of cattle through wildlife and even the reason why some people succeed in life and others don’t, are blamed on bewitching.
  4. There are two kinds of witchdoctors. A) The traditional healer that heals through natural medicine. B) One that bewitches other people and controls the environment/nature.
  5. Witches are dangerous. Four witchdoctors are needed to confirm that someone is a witch.
  6. Every family has a witch(es) as all families have diseases, death and tragedies. And as you can only bewitch a family as a witch, you are a witch. This makes it possible to identify a witch in two ways: a) Someone in the family that has dementia or b) Someone in the family that is more successful than the rest.
  7. Almost everyone that we spoke to, belonged to some church or other but they all still believed in bewitching.
  8. The idea of bewitching inside and outside the church are basically the same, it is only the terminology that differs.
  9. My idea that ‘the success of bewitching lies in the brain of the one that believes in it’ is becoming truer to me.

I do hope to gather more information on all of the above in the Kavango Region as well, as in Namibia, the Kavango and Ovahimba Regions are considered the most powerful bewitching areas.



The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Part 4)

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Zambezi Region, Namibia)

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, 21st August 2014

Fortunately we did not leave the Zambezi Region without seeing the elderly. On the day we sat in on a court meeting, we learned from the InDuna, that the next day was pensioner’s day and that pensioners would come from all over to collect their monthly state pensions of N$600. At 8am the next morning, we were there, and from all over the elderly came walking, some from miles away, to come and collect their money. However, this didn’t work out as the money didn’t arrive and they had to return the next day. This made me extremely angry as this showed no respect for our elderly. What’s worse, most of these old people had to go back to their villages and hand over their money to their children. It isn’t lift that is unfair, it is people.

Even though the whole episode made me very angry, it did give us the opportunity to meet the elderly of the Zambezi Region. One of the first women we spoke to did not quite look sixty to me and when I started questioning us, she told us her mom was 97 and could not come herself. I questioned her about her mother but she was very shy and didn’t want to talk. I do have a feeling that this might be another Ndjinaa case, but time will teach us as I now know when and where to find the elderly.

A girl of about twelve arrived with her grandmother who told me that her grandmother talked incoherently, could not remember things and could not look after herself. The girl said her grandmother was bewitched. I spoke to another man, in his fifties, who sat next to his father. He confirmed that his father frustrated him as he spoke mostly nonsense and could not remember anything.

Unfortunately we did not have a lot of time as we had to return to Rundu, but the Ndjinaa ‘sticker’ served its purpose and I hope that our information will be discussed over many camp fires during the nights to come. We spoke to a lot of people who believed that the witchdoctors are there to make money from them. One even referred to the witchdoctors as conmen.


To be Continued…

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Part 3)

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Zambezi Region, Namibia)

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, 21st August 2014

In the four days that we were there, we visited three villages, two churches, two schools and a traditional court where the InDuna listened to our story and our mission in the Zambezi Region. We spoke to about 150 people. The ‘sticker’ we have of photos of Ndjinaa was a huge help and both parents and children often gathered around my pick-up to talk to us and pepper us with questions. Most Caprivians (collective name of people living in the Zambezi Region) can speak English. With the help of the ‘sticker’ and applications on my phone, we could explain to them the effect of ‘bewitching’ on the human brain.

At one school we found 28 Grade 10 students preparing for their year-end examinations during the school holidays. This made it fairly easy for me to talk to them about Ndjinaa and dementia. They requested that I should come back the next day to show them the full slide show. Unfortunately they had no power in the classroom and I had to rely on my phone. However, Susanne was very happy, because this gave her the opportunity to hand out her question sheets that questioned the writer about his background, that of the family, the elderly in the family and about witchcraft. We distributed about 200 of these sheets and the info will be processed back in Germany.

At the one church that we visited, a woman asked for prayer. The next day we went to pick up Susanne’s question sheets from the pastor, we asked where the woman lived. He told us that her family reckons that she is either a witch or is bewitched. When we visited her in her little mud house, she told us that she was diagnosed with HIV AIDS, thus another HIV AIDS related dementia. She said her family isolated her because she was poor, but it was clear that it was because they thought she was bewitched. At the taxi rank another woman came to us. She too talked very incoherent and was seen as a witch by her family. After a while, she too told us, that she was HIV AIDS positive.

At the place where we stayed, we met an American who is busy with research on malaria in the area. He told us that the Zambezi Region has the highest HIV AIDS statistics in Namibia at 25%. All pregnant women get tested for it and about 38% of them test positive. In the time that we were in the region, we could not find someone with Dementia older than 55. Everyone was about 40 years old and had HIV AIDS.

During our evening discussions, I often told Susanne, that unlike in the rest of the world, in Africa, the number of dementia patients are far younger. They also don’t live with Alzheimer’s disease like 75% of the world’s dementia cases, but rather of HIV AIDS. I also have a suspicion that the double stigma of AIDS and bewitching are worsened by the rejection and isolation from the family. This makes ADN’s mission a bit more complicated and a huge challenge.


To be Continued…