ONGWEDIVA – A former learner at Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo Secondary School in the Oshana region, who was raped by a taxi driver while on her way to school five years ago, has spoken out after the perpetrator was sentenced to an effective 10 years imprisonment.
Onesmus Shapopi Amunyela, who seemed unremorseful, as he was smiling during the court proceedings, was given a 13-year prison sentence, of which three years are suspended for five years on condition he is not convicted of rape or attempted rape during the period of suspension.
Amunyela was sentenced yesterday at the Ondangwa Magistrate’s Court by Magistrate Makapa Simasiku. He was convicted of rape but not of kidnapping the then 17-year-old Julia Shikongo* (not her real name) in 2017.
Speaking to New Era outside the court, she said although she feels the sentencing was quite lenient, as she expected him to serve more years in prison, she is “sort of relieved” he is finally in jail.
“Today marks one step forward in my fight for justice. Someone who turned my life into a living nightmare is finally in jail…where he belongs,” said Shikongo. She added: “I know I will live with this trauma for the rest of my life but some sort of justice was served today”.
Shikongo, who was a grade 12 learner at that time, said Amunyela took her from Select Service Station at Ongwediva to drop her off at school, but instead drove her to Okakwiyu behind Heroes Private School in Ondangwa, where he raped her.
“I had a taxi driver, who used to take me to school every day, but he was not available that day, so I decided to just take a random taxi at the service station – not knowing I was getting myself into a lifetime trauma,” she narrated.
“When he passed by my school, I asked him where he was taking me; then he said he was going to drop off something and promised to return me. He stopped behind Heroes, went out of the car to remove the number plates, and ordered me to remove my clothes or else he will kill me and cut me into pieces, and my mother will never see me again. At that time, he was already reaching for something in his pocket, which seemed like a knife; I was so scared. I immediately followed his order and he forced himself onto me.” During that moment, Shikongo said she was frightened to lose her life and never see her mother again.
“I call myself a survivor because he could have killed me. He was so merciless. I was crying and begging him to stop, but he continued raping me,” she said, teary.
She said, after committing the heinous act, he drove her to school and warned her not to tell anyone. “When I went to school, I informed my friends, who later reported the matter to the school principal,” she said.
What followed the appalling incident and violation was a time of anguish and anger. “To this day, I still question why he did that to me. I was just a child. I am still terrified. It has also caused me to fail my matric because I was traumatised to an extent where I couldn’t concentrate in school anymore. After matric, I have been down for two years, improving the subjects I have failed,” she said.
Shikongo said, although she has received psychological support, she still gets flashbacks of the incident.
“I am fine now; I am confident to speak up, but the impact it has left on me is deeper. My PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) keeps manifesting itself all the time. I still remember the incident vividly, and the thought of it aches my heart all the time,” she said.
Shikongo is now a third-year student, pursuing a law degree.
“Going through that traumatic experience has motivated me to study law. I want to become a lawyer and represent all rape survivors to get the justice they deserve. This is not just about me but for every innocent woman and young girl out there fighting to stay alive because their rights and dignity were taken away from them,” she noted.
Shikongo encourages people who are struggling to speak out on rape due to fear of victimisation to seek help.
“I know firsthand how difficult it is to come forward as a victim, and I hope this verdict will be a ray of hope for all other victims of sexual abuse, and they may come forward and have the strength to find their justice,” she advised.
Justice not served
Speaking to New Era state prosecutor Bruna Mukoya said for Amunyela to be sentenced to 13 years is very lenient and an insult to justice.
She, therefore, said the State will appeal in court for Amunyela to at least be sentenced to 17 years. Amunyela was already serving five years in prison for committing a different crime. Rape has for years been highlighted as a concern, as the violation of the survivors impacts them for the rest of their lives.
Last month, governor of Oshana Elia Irimari said the region has reported about 75 rape cases between 2021 and 2022. The growing number of these vile incidents and the many unreported cases, however, show it continues unabated in Namibia.
In an earlier interview with this reporter, gender and child protection specialist, who is also a renowned social worker and advisor to the First Lady Monica Geingos, Veronica Theron, said rape remains one of the most underreported cases in the country.
Asked what can be done to curb rape in the country, Theron said “children need to be taught about basic safety measures.
To end the rape culture, perpetrators must be held accountable. It is also imperative to establish policies of zero tolerance for sexual harassment and violence in the spaces of work, church, school and our communities in general.