NEWS that a nine-year-old girl was starved and continuously assaulted by her own mother for reportedly being a ‘demon’ has left the girl’s close-knit family in Windhoek’s Havana informal settlement in shock.
According to family members who spoke to The Namibian this week, the girl is always verbally and physically abused by her mother, who accuses her of being possessed by ‘evil spirits’.
The mother, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her minor child, is now admitted at the psychiatric unit of a local hospital for observation and treatment.
She apparently assaulted the child almost daily to “cast out evil spirits”, allegedly on the instruction of a local pastor who ‘diagnosed’ the nine-year-old as being possessed by demons.
The Namibian, accompanied by members of the Khomas Women and Men’s Network Against Crime, visited the family home this week.
“This abuse has been going on for too long. We could no longer keep quiet about it. This poor child has not eaten since Thurday. When we bring food for her, my aunt throws the food away, saying she cannot feed demons,” one family member explained.
Police community affairs officer, chief inspector Christina van Dunem Fonsech, confirmed that family members had alerted the police about the issue.
“We investigated the matter, and a team from the Women and Men’s Network Against Crime also attended to the case after it was referred to them. I can confirm that we took the child from her mother, and kept her in a safe house until we located the father,” Fonsech said. Another family member told The Namibian that the mother would take her daughter with her when she went preaching around Havana.
“That girl goes through a lot. She would take her daughter along with her to shebeens at 03h00. Then, in front of people, she would turn around and ‘beat the demons’ out of her. No child deserves that,” she added.
She said the mother also does not buy food because every month, she deposits N$3 000 into her pastor’s bank account.
“From there onwards, she would put another N$300 into the account whenever he asks for it. I really don’t understand some pastors. He can see that the woman is not well-off, and she is a single mother with a low salary, but he still exploits her like that,” the family member said.
Apostle Jackie van Wyk, the leader of a local church, said the role of the church is to spread the message of love, and not incite violence.
“The church has a big influential responsibility towards families and society at large. As women and men of God, we ought to spread the language of humility. She is our child and as a community, we must protect, care and love her,” Van Wyk said.
Christophine Iyambo, gender coordinator at Lifeline Childline Namibia, called on family members and the public to report cases of this nature.
“Family members, neighbours or community members at large must come to organisations like ours, or to the authorities and report such cases. Also, the father must seek counselling for his nine-year-old daughter because this is a serious matter.
“We cannot expect this child to just get over this issue on her own. She needs help, and this ordeal can make or break her. In most cases, it breaks them mentally,”Iyambo added.
Efforts to contact the girl’s father and the woman’s pastor proved futile.