The police have completed their investigations into the case of two men in custody for allegedly attempting to buy the hair of a person living with albinism.
Making their routine appearance in the Katutura Magistrate’s Court yesterday, Fred Simasiku (50) and Obrein Liwelu (45) were informed the State has finalised investigations into their case.
Thus, the matter is ready for trial.
However, Simasiku and his co-accused informed magistrate Jo-Rina Jagger that they no longer wish to represent themselves and would be approaching the directorate of Legal Aid for legal representation.
The court postponed the matter to 28 July, and ordered for the accused to be remanded in police custody.
The prosecution is charging Simasiku and Liwelu with a count under the Witchcraft Suppression Proclamation 27 of 1933.
The police arrested Simasiku and his co-accused on 18 February 2022 in Windhoek after they approached a person living with albinism and asked him to sell his hair to them.
Simasiku and Liwelu promised the complainant that they were willing to pay N$1 million for his hair.
The complainant reached out to the Namibia Albinism Association, which then tipped off the police about the offer.
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that causes little to no production of melanin.
Melanin regulates skin, hair and eye colour.
The types of albinism vary, but the most common medical impairments include vision and dermatological risks.
Exposure to the sun can be highly damaging to the skin and eyes.
In some African countries, people living with albinism are often attacked because of the superstition that albino body parts bring wealth, power or sexual conquest, and that having sex with a person living with albinism cures HIV/AIDS.
Attackers sell albino body parts to witchdoctors for thousands of dollars, according to Amnesty International.
Before court proceedings, a small number of people living with albinism and sympathisers held a peaceful demonstration at court against Simasiku and Liwelu being granted bail.
The president of the Namibian Albino Association, Joseph Ndinomupya, said the court should enquire who sent Simasiku and Liwelu as well as why their body parts are needed.
“Since this came to light, we do not feel safe anymore. We are in the dark about how many of these people are out there looking to get a hand on our body parts. We live in fear every day,” explained Ndinomupya.
Deon Baisako, secretary general of the Namibia Mental Health Association, said he is in solidarity with those affected by the incident.
He said people living with mental issues are in the same boat if not worse than those living with albinism.
Thus, it is important that they support one another.