A northern woman, who was sexually assaulted by her cousin, claims she was largely left to fend for herself and has been disowned by some members of her family for merely seeking justice.
The young woman, who cannot be named to protect her identity, has spent seven years fighting for justice after her cousin, a northern-based businessman Sindano Hango, raped her at her home.
Although Hango was initially acquitted of the charges in 2019, the Oshakati High Court last month found him guilty following a State appeal. He, however, never set foot in jail because the regional court granted him bail soon after the guilty verdict.
He is due for sentencing next month in the Oshakati Regional Court. To make matters worse, the victim’s maternal family – the same people she was living with at the time of the incident – rejected her and wants nothing to do with her. “I felt that justice was finally served… but then my sense of relief was short-lived,” she opens up to New Era in an exclusive interview. “The court decided to give him bail without arranging any sort of protection for me; they never cared to contact me or to inform me that he was out. He is out there; I don’t know what he is thinking about. I don’t know what he is planning… what if…?”
In the midst of fear, the young woman is also battling a sense of rejection.
She claims that her decision to open a case against her cousin came at a high price.
She lost her family, as most of them, including her siblings, decided to distance themselves away from her.
“I miss my siblings; it has been seven years. There are days when I wake up feeling suicidal; it hurts,” she says while sobbing uncontrollably.
“We used to love each other but now we have been torn apart. Sindano has stripped me of my dignity, my self-worth and my family. How could my own blood do this to me? Of all the women that he can sleep with, he chose to rape me? His own blood? Why? I had so much respect for him as my older cousin. He destroyed my life.”
Recalling what transpired on that fateful day, the woman said she was left alone with a family member at their home.
His older cousin, who is the owner of the house, had left early for work and the children had gone to school.
“I started calling out for my cousin, who was supposed to be at home with me – but when he did not respond, I assumed that he went somewhere and I was alone at home. I started cleaning the house – but at some point, I went to the toilet just close to the sitting room that I was cleaning and sat on the toilet pot, chatting with my friend on the phone but I did not close the door. That was when I noticed Sindano standing in front of the toilet, staring at me. I nodded and quickly pulled the door. I realised then that Sindano was also at home,” she narrated.
The 35-year-old victim added she went back to clean up the house after using the toilet.
She further claimed Hango emerged from one of the rooms in the same building and all of the sudden locked the door of the sitting room.
“I asked him why was he locking the door, but he did not say a word; he just started walking towards me, pushed me into the sofa and pulled off my jeans. After that, we wrestled for sometimes – at some point, I slipped away and freed myself… I remember him chasing me around the house while I was naked. I screamed until I could no longer scream… he overpowered me and raped me. He did not say a word through it all,” she said.
Soon after the incident, she ran to her bedroom and called her older cousins to inform them about what had transpired.
A female cousin, who is a director in one of the government ministries, advised her to go to the hospital and to the police to report the incident.
But the day after she opened the case, she claimed, Hango offered her money, begging her to withdraw the case on different occasions.
Strange though, she said, most of the young people in the family, including those who sympathised and advised her to open the case and not to give in, have all turned their backs on her.
“Some of them told me that they want nothing to do with me or my case. Some are avoiding me and some of them told me to my face that I am not related to them. The saddest part of this is the fact that they went and tell lies to the family elders.
“They said I have lied about the rape, yet Sindano has confessed to them. Apparently, it is taboo to report a rape case against a relative; we were supposed to solve that matter within the family. I brought shame to the family,” she said.
“I was wronged, yet I am the bad one. Why are they doing this? Is it because I am an orphan? My family have truly wronged me. At least my father and my stepmother, who are both elderly, have been supporting me through it all. But many times, I found myself alone at courts with no one to support me.”
In seven years of turbulences, the young woman managed to make the best out of her life. She raised some money and managed to obtain a diploma in education.
“I am currently job-hunting but it is difficult. I move around in fear. I am always scared. I keep watching my back. But I really need a job because I cannot afford a place of my own.
“I rely on my boyfriend and his family, who have been good to me over the past seven years. I also have a friend and good Samaritan who have been good to me. But I don’t really have a place to call my home,” she said.
In an interview with New Era, the executive director of Women Solidarity Namibia (WSN) Rosa Namises strongly condemned the court’s decision to grant bail to Hango.
“Justice is definitely not served. The same court that found him guilty gave him bail immediately. This is justice denied. The justice system in this country is disappointing. Our courts are no longer seated on the throne of truth and justice; they are being bought. Look at the police officers who were advocating for the child to exchange her silence for money, and they also tried to block last week’s demonstration against bail,” said Namises.
Namises further added that it is disappointing how families have been moulded towards crime, and they are now teaching the children to remain silent when wronged and are made to lie to cover up crimes and protect perpetrators.
“That girl was young when she got raped. For seven good years, she has been deprived of love and protection because her family decided to take the side of the rapist,” she said.
“Families in this country must choose if they want to side with the oppressed or oppressors – and they must choose if they want to protect the children or to expose them. But when the family of the victim chooses the side of the criminal, the rest of the families should stand together and protect the victim.”