Cemetery attack highlights city’s safety issues

A man was brutally assaulted by muggers who stole his cellphone in Windhoek's Pionierspark cemetery last week.

19 November 2021 | Crime

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEK



A man who was assaulted and robbed at the Gammams Cemetery in Pionierspark last week has warned fellow residents that Windhoek is no longer safe.

“What began as a pilgrimage to pay homage to the deceased daughter of a friend at the Pionierspark cemetery ended with me being treated for wounds sustained as a result of an assault and robbery at the hands of three robbers who after taking my cellphone and money proceeded to tie me up and hit me with a rock over the head,” Windhoeker Vitalio Angula wrote of the attack recently.

He wrote on his social media account that he visited the cemetery with a friend last Friday, and at one point walked alone to look for the grave of a loved one.

Suddenly he noticed three men walking towards him. Sensing danger, he turned and walked in the opposite direction, but the men began chasing him.

Once they reached him, they grabbed him and tried to wrestle his cellphone from him. In the process one of the men bit his finger, and he was shoved to the ground. After they had taken his cellphone, they began searching his pockets and then tried to remove his shoes.

“I had no idea this was only the beginning of a nightmare that would not end any time soon,” Angula wrote.

Choked with sand

When he started screaming for help, the men shoved sand into his mouth to silence him and tied his hands and legs together with his shoelaces.

In the end, they hit him in the face with a rock, and “then casually walked away”.

After struggling for some time to get up and find help, Angula’s friend arrived and they located the lone security guard stationed at the cemetery, who was able to free Angula from the shoelaces.

Angula says he experienced extreme thirst and was spitting and vomiting sand.

“I was tired, I was scared, and I was disappointed in myself. I felt shame, I felt guilt, and I was traumatised. I blamed myself and I blamed my friend. I cursed the living gods, why could I have not been more vigilant?”

A CT scan showed he did not suffer brain injuries, but he was given medicine for a possible lung infection because of the sand he had ingested. By Tuesday, he said he was still coughing as a result of the sand being forced down his throat.

He also sustained injuries to his face and arms.

After speaking to the police, Angula says he was informed that “someone else also fell victim to a gang that is suspected to be operating in the vicinity. According to the police, I am the third such robbery to take place at the cemetery that week and one of two for the day.”

Soft targets

City Police spokesperson Constable Fabian Amukwelele yesterday said that there are criminal opportunists who target isolated areas and vulnerable people.

“It's not a dedicated gang, they are opportunists who are ambushing people.”

He said it's not just the cemetery but other parts of the city such as Rocky Crest where such incidents have happened.

He said people should avoid isolated places.

He added that in the run-up to the festive season, attacks of this nature are likely to increase, and while the police do their best to monitor high-risk areas, they cannot be everywhere.

“If they see there is heat on them, they shift to other areas with no police presence. We can’t be everywhere, unfortunately.”

Amukwelele also noted that security guards monitor large areas and cannot keep an eye at all points at all times. He added that many guards are also not armed or equipped to deal with violent attacks.

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