Veronica Hashondili, an Okahandja Park resident, who last month suffered multiple third-degree injuries on her left leg from hot coal ash, is struggling with funds to meet her medical needs.
The mines ministry on 10 January confirmed that the hot ash that burned Hashondili (55) came from dumped burnt coal.
She was collecting firewood behind NamPower’s Van Eck station in Windhoek’s Northern Industrial area on 9 January when she and two other women accidentally stepped on the hot ash.
When New Era visited her home recently, Hashondili was found in her tiny cubicle room, sleeping on a wooden bed without a mattress.
She got to her feet slowly and greeted this reporter with a low, soft voice. With tears in her eyes, Hashondili again narrated her ordeal and the constant pain.
“I am the only one here, my grandchildren went out. I have been without food for seven days. I cannot walk and most importantly, I missed my doctor’s appointment that was scheduled last week Monday due to lack of funds,” she said.
Hashondili said her life has become bleak now that she can no longer generate income to buy food.
“I had a walking stick and now it is broken. I cannot walk or move. This is why I am here in my bed because I can’t do anything. I have no food; the last time I ate I was helped by Lucas Pohamba – my neighbour – with a half jar of maize meal. I don’t know what to do,” she explained.
Hashondili said she is furious that one is willing to take responsibility for her injuries.
“This is hurting. I don’t know to which office I should go seek justice for my injuries. When the incident occurred, I thought the injuries were not serious but now the pain is getting worse on the daily basis. I don’t know what to do.”
“I need help. My foot is in pain. I feel there is a chemical inside because whenever I walk, I feel like there is a sharp object that is worsening the pain. I am now in poverty,” the woman said.
According to her neighbour, Vilho Hitilasha, the victim is suffering internal pain that they suspect emanates from chemicals.
“She was the breadwinner by collecting firewood for cooking and selling. Now she can’t collect wood and requires transport money. She cannot go to the hospital on foot because she struggles to walk properly. We thought the wounds were not that deep but now she is in agony,” said Hitilasha.
He said Hashondili deserves justice and compensation from those who are responsible for dumping the ash.
“Imagine the person was already languishing in poverty and now suffers pain and nobody is taking accountability to compensate her. We are at least urging the relevant authority to assist in investigating the matter so that the victim gets what she deserves.”
In response to questions sent to them, NamPower denied that the ash is from the coal at the power station.
“NamPower does not dispose of its ash from the Van Eck Power Station at the said site. Ash from the power station from the burning of coal is stored and managed at the NamPower Van Eck Power Station premises,” acting managing director Kandali Iiyambo had said.
Andreas Simon, the spokesperson of the energy ministry, said their geological team have taken the samples and it is confirmed to be coal, not a volcano as onlookers speculated earlier on.
Another woman who was with Hashondili on the day also sustained burns. The ash caused minor injuries to Tresia Shimpanda who rescued Hashondili. Contacted for comment on whether the police are investigating the matter, Khomas regional commander, Commissioner David Indongo promised to follow up on the matter.
Environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda explained that the ministry does not know about the incident.
“It was not reported to us, however, having noted it, we will commission an investigation to establish how this happened,” he said previously.