Panga attack should wake nation

08 November 2019 | Columns

Yesterday 26-year-old Sam Nauyoma Petrus appeared in the Ohangwena Magistrate’s Court amid extraordinary scenes of his out-of-tune behaviour.

Petrus is accused of killing all but three members of his family in the wee hours of Monday at Epatululo village in Ohangwena. Those killed with a panga include his own mother and elder brother.

A niece was also killed, while another girl had her leg amputated by her uncle, who ran amok. A dog and eight goats were also killed. The two kids that survived his wrath ran to a neighbour’s house.

We are no experts in mental health, but Petrus appeared very unaware of what was happening around him yesterday. The magistrate ordered that he be taken to hospital immediately.

New Era, quoting the police yesterday, said Petrus is suspected of nursing a rabies infection, which seems to have disorientated his thinking.

Society often pays no mind to mental health. In fact, those battling it have often become the butt of every joke, with people barely willing to associate themselves with those affected, let alone offering to assist.

Often than not, the strange behaviour of victims is ignored, sometimes at the peril of those close to them, such as members of Petrus’ family who paid the ultimate price.

Of course it’s up to experts and the justice system to determine what state of mind Petrus was in at the time of going on his killing spree.

Last year Jesaya Chuhunda massacred five members of his family at Rundu, after his strange behaviour was reported twice to the local police, with no help forthcoming.

Police on both occasions ignored the reported behaviour of Chuhunda and did not go to his residence, under the guise of not having transport. Hours later, five people, including defenceless children, were killed.

Recently, Chuhunda was declared mentally ill and he cannot be held liable for what he did. It’s time the nation and communities started observing such behaviour and attend to those who display it with lightning speed.