... family members of Covid-19 victim speak out
Eveline de Klerk
WALVIS BAY – A Walvis Bay family, who recently lost a loved one to Covid-19, says there is absolutely no dignity – even in death – for those who lost their lives due to the virulent pandemic.
According to the family, they are deeply saddened by events that played out at the coastal town this past weekend, when residents rejected the idea of having bodies of deceased persons infected by the coronavirus buried in a demarcated cemetery near their homes. The family said the virus had already stripped their loved one of the human dignity for a proper burial but it was more heart wrenching when community members attempted to dig out his body during the protests.
Simon Haufiku, a cousin of the 45-year-old victim and Namibia’s first Covid-19 fatality, told New Era yesterday they were utterly disgusted by the actions of some residents, who displayed no respect towards the dead and their loved ones. “They referred to him as a “ding” (thing) as if he doesn’t have family. He did not look for Covid-19. He certainly did not deserve that kind of humiliation and discrimination even during the protest,” said Haufiku. “How would they have felt if it was their family member being disrespected like that? He did not ask to be buried there and the leadership clearly didn’t think this through. They all failed us.”
Residents of Narraville and Kuisebmond over the weekend claimed they did not want Covid-related deaths to be buried at the new cemetery, as some claimed that the area is too close to their homes, where their children play. Others claimed government wanted to dump Covid in Narraville.
According to Haufiku, the family did not abandon their son but simply agreed to allow the government to continue with his burial, as he died of Covid-19 and could not be moved from Walvis nor could the family travel out of Walvis Bay due to the tough restrictions. On Friday, a scheduled burial of a 44-year-old man, who had also died of Covid-19, could not proceed following protests.
Haufiku yesterday also indicated that the victim’s sister was struggling with his death, which resulted in her being hospitalised at Walvis Bay.
Walvis Bay mayor Immanuel Wilfred yesterday also said that how the protests were carried out and the derogatory terms used were very disappointing for a town such as Walvis Bay with a diverse culture.
“Covid-19 did not come for the deceased only. I am truly sorry that the families of the deceased had to witness that. At a time like this, we need to stand together, as there is no time for racism and politics. We are all human,” Wilfred said.
He said they would render support to the families of the deceased and also visit the sibling of the first deceased who is currently hospitalised. Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge also explained that the protection, dignity and respect for the dead and their families is a collective duty of both leaders and the community at large.
“There is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room or visitation with the body of a deceased person who had confirmed or suspected Covid-19 after the body has been prepared for burial. The best thing now is to properly and humanely re-bury the victim at an existing burial site,” he said.
Cemetery already approved
Spokesperson for the Walvis Bay municipality Kevin Adams on Friday said the Covid-19 cemetery was an approved site that forms part of the Narraville extension eight layout, of which approval was granted prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. He explained that public consultation was undertaken by their town planning division, while a draft layout (that includes the cemetery) was presented to the public at the public meeting held in July 2014 in Narraville.
“No objections were received against the cemetery and other land uses that form part of the said extension during the consultation phases,” Adams explained. He added that public consultation was further undertaken as part of the environmental impact assessment for the cemetery process and notices was placed in newspapers explaining the activity and its locality.
“A public meeting was scheduled and held on 13 June 2019 in Walvis Bay. The turn up was very low and a second meeting was held again on 4 July 2019 at Narraville. This meeting was well-attended and meeting minutes were taken, compiled and shared with the attendees for review and comments. The issues that were raised have been recorded, responses provided and are fully presented in the meeting minute,” he said.
Meanwhile, the burial of Covid-19 related bodies at Narraville extension 7 has been suspended. At a gathering on Saturday, Erongo governor Neville Andre Itope said no further burials would be conducted in the area and further discussions would be held about where future Covid-19 related bodies would be buried. He also admitted no consultation was made with the community of Narraville to bury the Covid-19 related body.
– Additional reporting by Nampa