'I want my baby's bones'

An open grave is causing fear and tension in the Ondonga community while the police wait for DNA results to confirm the identity of the exhumed remains.

11 October 2018 | Local News

The community of Ondonga is shocked by the exhumation of a child's body that was buried over 18 years ago, after the deceased child's father turned up claiming that there had been foul play and his child was still alive.

The police say the results of a DNA test to confirm the dead child's parentage is still pending. In the meantime the grave remains open - a situation that is upsetting and causing fear among the family and the entire Ondonga community because of their traditional beliefs.

The family spokesperson, Fillip Nghidengwa, told Namibian Sun that in February 2000 at his house in Windhoek, his niece Cornelia Weyulu gave her child, Johannes Tuhafeni (3) to her aunt, Ndahambelela Namatwi, to take care of because the mother was job hunting and it was difficult to do it with the baby.

Namatwi took the child to her village at Eyambeko in the Onkumbula area of the Oshikoto Region. In June that year the baby fell ill and died.

Because of the remoteness of the area, the baby was buried the following day without a death certificate.

“That day when the child fell ill, it was a Sunday and plans were to take him either to Onamishu or Onkumbula clinics, which are all situated about 15 to 20 kilometres away. Clinics do not operate during weekends or after hours. Later at night the child got a high fever and unfortunately he died,” explained Nghidengwa.

“During those years it was hard to get a vehicle in those areas and one has to travel to Omuthiya for all services such as making phone calls. That night we informed the village headman, who advised us to bury the body the following day. No death certificate was issued.”

Nghidengwa said the next day two people were sent to Omuthiya to make phone calls to inform people in Windhoek of the sad news. He said the two were sent early in the morning but only reached Omuthiya around 15:00.

“People from Windhoek went to the north for mourning, including the child's mother and the grandmother [father's mother]. The father did not go, but he was in Windhoek at the time,” he said.

In April this year the father, Johannes Hamukoto, turned up claiming that the child was not dead and that there had been foul play.

He approached the Omuthiya police station for the body to be exhumed and a DNA test to be conducted. The body was exhumed on 18 April.

“It is now seven months since the body was exhumed and that grave is still open. We are now getting pressure from the traditional authority asking what we are going to do with the grave that is still open, which they claim is taboo,” Nghidengwa added.

Hamukoto refused to comment. The Oshikoto regional police commander, Commissioner Armas Shivute, told Namibian Sun that the situation was complicated and he did not have much to say.

“The complainant [Hamukoto] has not received the DNA outcome yet,” said Shivute.

Eyambeko village is situated in the Amuteya District of the Ondonga Traditional Authority, and according to Vilho Kamanya, the dismissed traditional leader of Amuteya, Nghindengwa approached him regarding the pressure he is getting from the traditional leaders.

“I advised him to follow up with the police as to how far the investigation is. Traditionally it is a taboo when a grave ... is opened; it is associated with more deaths in the community,” Kamanya said.

Nghidengwa has now approached the Oukwanyama Traditional Authority to help them trace the Hamukoto family regarding the open grave.


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