Children abused as govt turns blind eye

“Every morning, we must fix what the parents have broken at night,” Beautiful Kidz manager Jennieke Kafuka-Bolier said.

24 September 2021 | Police

JEMIMA BEUKES







WINDHOEK

Staff at a centre for orphans and vulnerable people in Katutura say they hopelessly witness rape victims as young as four years old and grossly abused children falling through the cracks while government allegedly turns a blind eye.

Beautiful Kidz is managed by Jennieke Kafuka-Bolier, who said she has written several letters to social workers stationed at the police’s Women and Child Protection Unit, which often go without response.

Kafuka-Bolier said the most painful thing is taking children to the unit hoping for serious intervention, but the next day they are back in the same harmful circumstances while their abusers are let off with a warning because “it is a first-time offence”.

Other times, they are simply told by social workers on call that they will come back to them.

“It is awful. You are here because you want to take care of these children but you can see that they have no chance to grow up in loving homes. Every morning, we must fix what the parents have broken at night,” she said.

Covered in bruises

The most recent case was of a five-year old boy whose father had allegedly beaten him.

According to centre staff, they realised something was amiss when the boy was unable to sit down during lessons, and upon inspection, they discovered his body was covered in bruises.

“How is it possible in Namibia, where there is apparently so much focus on children's rights, that a little child gets beaten like this by his father? And after reporting it to the Women and Child Protection Unit, this child was sent home after being given a ‘serious warning’,” Kafuka-Bolier fumed.

She said in the aftermath of serious allegations, there are “zero consequences, no prison, no counselling offered, no home visits done, nothing”.

“Don't tell me then that a child has any rights here. The system fails them over and over again and just tells us there's nothing we can do.”

Upon enquiry, the father told Namibian Sun that it is a private matter that must be discussed inside a ‘closed office’.

He was also extremely angry with the fact that the abuse is now out in the public for all to see.

“I will go to Women and Child Abuse and I will find out who made this public and I will take that person to the police, because this is dirtying my child’s name,” he said before ending the call.

Felicity Adams, a social worker, subsequently called Namibian Sun to find out how it was leaked to the media, insisting that it is a confidential matter.

Four-year-old rapist

Meanwhile, staff at the centre are still haunted by a case in which a four-year-old boy was reportedly raped by his stepfather. Eventually, his mother returned to the man, despite what had happened.

A staff member at the centre, who declined to be named, said the boy has now started raping other children.

“He was doing it to other kids and when he was asked, he said in class ‘my father also did it with me’.

“There was one day that I found him taking another neighbour’s baby, pulling down her nappy and lying her down to start penetrating her. I shouted and he got such a big fright.”

On another occasion, the boy’s father beat him severely after he found him raping his little brother, the source said.

Another case involving the rape of a 10-year-old girl reportedly went cold after several attempts to involve the police.

“The rape was confirmed. She went to the doctor and then she was put in a house of safety for a few days. It was a family member who fled, but the family protected him and said it is not so bad. “The grandparents said [the victim] must come back, and then [the rapist] also went back into that house and there were no consequences for this guy,” the source said.

Not our problem

In November 2017, the centre wrote to the police asking for urgent intervention for the plight of two girls aged five and 12 who had been abandoned by their mother. They have to date received no feedback or intervention, Kafuka-Bolier said.

In the same year, she wrote to the police again about the deplorable living conditions of children who live next to a shebeen in a small makeshift shack with their alcoholic, drug-addicted parents.

The children were often left alone, without food, in the home – which has no water or electricity – while the parents went out drinking.

Still, no response was forthcoming.

Kafuka-Bolier wrote yet another letter about the same family in 2019 pleading for the Women and Child Protection Unit to intervene.

When Namibian Sun contacted gender ministry executive director Esther Lusepani about these issues, she simply referred questions to the police.

“The police are actually responsible for rape cases; we only do psychosocial support of victims,” she said.

Keep record

When contacted for comment, James Ithana from Regain Trust said while his organisation hasn’t experienced many challenges working with the gender-based violence (GBV) protection units, they emphasise the importance of educating communities and other service providers on the possible measures that can be used to hold government services accountable.

“I would always recommend that when cases are reported at the units, take down the names and, in the event that it is a police officer, their rank number. So that in the event that cases aren’t attended to, they can be reported to the national head of the GBV units as well as the directors under the gender ministry.

“If government service providers aren’t held accountable, service provision will not improve,” he said.

By the time of going to print, the police had not yet responded to questions sent to them.

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