Governor threatens Covid corpse thieves with deportation

30 September 2020 | Crime

ESTER KAMATI

OTJIWARONGO

Refugees at Osire who stole a Covid-19-positive corpse from the refugee camp’s mortuary on 18 September and buried it the same day have been threatened with repatriation.

“We cannot tolerate this while we are containing the situation in the region. Serious steps will be taken, even if it means they have to be repatriated to their country of origin. We cannot allow anarchy to be imported into Namibian soil,” Otjozondjupa governor James Uerikua said.

The deceased was a man from the Democratic Republic of Congo who entered Namibia on 17 February via Zambia.

The corpse was carried by four people, none related to the deceased, while many others followed, Uerikua said.

According to the governor, the man fell ill on 13 September. He was swabbed on 15 September and died the same day.

“When the body was released and returned to Osire, the results came back positive and as a result, necessary measures were immediately put in place while the body was kept at the mortuary at Osire.”

Attacked ambulance

On 18 September, a team headed by the health ministry went to Osire to bury the body in accordance with the Covid-19 regulations.

They were met by a hostile crowd who used sticks and stones to attack the ambulance they were travelling in.

“They even went to the extent of threatening the nurses on duty who saw that their lives were in danger and had to retreat,” the governor said.

That same day, four people broke into the mortuary and removed the body without following any Covid-19 protocols.

“When this body was carried, a number of people assisted. The whole community was walking around the body chanting all sorts of slogans. They then carried the casket to the burial area themselves.”

Uerikua said the instigators and everyone involved will be brought to book.

Charges laid

Police Deputy Commissioner Kauna Shikwambi says no arrests have been made yet, although three cases have been opened - housebreaking and theft, obstructing a police officer, and assaulting an officer.

The representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Namibia, Likius Valombola, blamed the incident on miscommunication between the Osire community and health officials.

He said a meeting was held with the refugee community at which information about the Covid regulations was “clearly explained in their mother tongue”.

“We don’t just deport refugees like we deport illegal immigrants,” Valombola responded to the possibility of deportation.

He said asylum seekers enjoy the same rights as the citizens of the country where they are hosted.

The Osire refugee camp has so far recorded six confirmed Covid-19 cases, all of which have recovered.

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