Written by Berrie Holtzhausen
6th March 2014 is a day to remember in Namibia. President Hifikepunye Pohamba and the Cabinet have called on all Namibians to join them in a National Day of Prayer for the gender-based violence in Namibia. (Since January 2013, 36 women have died at the hands of their lovers.) The President even asked all bottle store owners to close for the day as both political and religious leaders believe that alcohol and drugs play a role in the abuse of women. (This of course is not the whole truth, is it?). I want to applaud the government for taking a stand on this sensitive issue and in acknowledging our dependency on God. This is quite a step forward in any secular government.
Secondly, today is the 57th Anniversary of Ghana’s Independence which is supposed to celebrate the freedom of every Ghanaian. But is every Ghanaian truly free? What about the witch camps where people with dementia and other brain diseases are being fenced in because they are regarded as witches and are seen as dangerous? What about the church camps where the ones that are freed from the witch camps are fenced in with no food and water until they are delivered from their demons? When will these people be free?
When talking about the maltreatment and violence against people living with dementia, I cannot stress more that alcohol and drugs are definitely not to blame. The culprits here are superstition and ignorance. These are the main reasons why people without dementia commit crimes against those with dementia. And that brings me to Ward 16, Oshakati, where I left Kaputu nearly three weeks ago. I promised her that I would take her back to Ndjinaa and the first Himba Dementia Village which we have called Mbakutuka Komapando which means “Here I was freed from my chains.”
6th March really only started for me when I stopped at the Oshivelo Gate on my way to Oshakati. A young female officer asked for my driver’s license and reason for visiting Oshakati. I cannot help but to love such questions, because it gives me the green light to talk about ADN. While I was telling her our story, I noticed in my rear view mirror that I was blocking traffic, but she just directed them passed me. She was deeply interested and when I finished, she said that I just described her mother living in a village near Eenhana. I gave her my business card and asked her to contact me. I really wanted to meet her mother.
Nearly the same happened at Etuna Guest House where the receptionist, Nathalie, told me about her mother who got sick and according to the doctor, she too is mentally ill. Juanine from Epupa also called to ask if I would stop in Opuwo to see a family just south of town that has a mother that acts the same as Ndjinaa. Is this coincidence or a bright orange light warning us that dementia and other brain diseases are more common in Namibia than previously thought?
And then I went to Ward 16. The same sister from three weeks ago was still counting pills. I now seriously doubt whether any of the patients can still be hungry after that amount of pills. When I close my eyes, I can see the nurse counting tablets. Does one get white-chocolate-coated Smarties? I sure hope so!
The Tanzanian doctor was in and she immediately called the sister to fetch Kaputu. I waited about twenty minutes before she returned with Kaputu. She was stronger and her eyes seemed alive again. When asked a question, she made a sound in answer. The doctor asked if she knew me, and she turned to me offering me a smile – or was that my imagination.
While the doctor and I waited for the nurse to bring Kaputu, she told me to return at the end of March to fetch Kaputu. I then started telling her how ADN got involved in the Cunene Region and how I was on my way there to help Koos and the team to move Ndjinaa to Mbakutuka Komapando. At the end of my story, I showed her the three pictures of Ndjinaa when we freed her. At first, I could see the doctor thought I was telling her some kind of fable. With Kaputu now in the room, she was shocked when she saw the pictures. She now looked at Kaputu and again asked her if she wanted to go home. Again Kaputu made a sound and smiled. The doctor immediately started to give orders to the sisters to prepare Kaputu for her return home in the morning with me.
I wasn’t at any prayer meetings today. In fact, I probably interrupted one when I stopped at the closed gate of Etuna Guest House, pressing the buzzer with nobody to open for me. I looked at my watch and realized it was 13h00 – the time for the one minute silence for all Namibian people. I returned to my pick-up and got silent on my own thanking God that I was able to return to Opuwo tomorrow with Kaputu.
I bought Kaputu some ENSURE (an energy drink) to drink on the road back to Opuwo. I have no idea what happened to her dress, but luckily I will have Zelma with me tomorrow (The bar tender of Epupa Falls Lodge). We can then just quickly stop at PEP Stores to buy Kaputu something suitable.
To me, prayer is every action and reaction that I am busy with as I am fully aware that we all live in the shadow of God’s loving hand.