NAMIBIA: Rapists Prey on the Young

Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The Namibian
Southern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

NEARLY one out of every seven victims whose rape was reported by the Namibian Police in its daily crime bulletins last year was ten years or younger.

The youngest was a three-year-old girl from Outapi. Four rape cases of girls aged four were reported by Police at Khorixas, Lüderitz and Plessis-plaas. In Walvis Bay, the Police in June released details of a four-year-old who was allegedly raped by a 74-year-old man in broad daylight at Barney's Kindergarten.

About 57 per cent of all complainants in 2009 were 18 years or younger. Questions about the extent of rape in Namibia surfaced once again last Tuesday when 17-year-old Magdalena Stoffels was raped, stabbed and suffocated in a riverbed near Dawid Bezuidenhout High School in Khomasdal.

When the Grade 11 pupil died on the spot, she became part of a pool of unknown statistics. Was she one of dozens of women who have been raped in the country this year? Or hundreds? Namibians will have difficulty finding out, as the Police stopped issuing daily crime bulletins in January, clamping down on the media's only readily available daily snapshot of crime in the country.
According to the daily crime bulletins archived by The Namibian, 154 rape charges were laid by women of all ages from all across the country last year – nearly 15 per cent more than in 2008.

These crime bulletin statistics are a drop in the ocean when compared with the official 2008 figure of around 1 180, or about three women every day, passed on to the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC). The centre has not yet received the official statistics for 2009.

The LAC believes only one out of 20 rapes is ever reported to the Police. “How many rapes take place in Namibia? To answer this question, one must consider both statistics on reported rapes and estimates of how many unreported rapes take place,” the LAC said in its comprehensive rape report released in 2006.

According to the Police's daily crime bulletins, 134 rapes were reported in 2008. Of these, 49 per cent of the complainants were 18 years or younger, while 22 per cent were girls of ten or younger. The youngest, a girl from Otjiwarongo, was only one year old. At Isale village near Katima Mulilo, a ten-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a man of 33. He promised her N$10 in return, the crime bulletin stated.

In Ohangwena, a girl of nine was allegedly raped by two men, 18 and 33 years old. According to the crime bulletin, the men allegedly “on several occasions [dragged] her into the bushes and raped her”. Also in Ohangwena, two 16-year-old girls were gang-raped, one by three men and the other by two. In another gang-rape in the region, a “minor”, age unknown, was raped by two men.

At Otunganga village near Eenhana, a 20-year-old man allegedly raped four girls, two aged eight and the other two ten and six years old respectively. Also near Eenhana, a 16-year-old was gang-raped by two men. A girl of 15 was allegedly gang-raped by four men at Mukwe, while a 16-year-old was raped by three men at Rosh Pinah.

The oldest rape victim in 2008 was a woman of 99. She was allegedly raped by 25-year-old man at the Oshikwambi village in the Tsandi constituency, who allegedly also robbed her of N$300, the Police bulletin stated.
The scenario for 2009 is equally gruesome.

About 15 per cent of the victims in the 154 rape cases reported in the daily crime bulletins were ten years old or younger, while 57 per cent were 18 and younger. At Oshimwaku village in Ohangwena, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly raped and hacked with a panga while she was collecting firewood, according to the bulletins. She died on the spot.

At Otjiwarongo, a girl of 12 was allegedly gang-raped by four boys, two aged 11 and the other two 12 and 14. In Wanaheda, Katutura, a girl of 14 was raped while her mother was held at gunpoint and forced to watch.

At Ongwediva, a man of 85 allegedly raped a girl of 11. A 29-year-old woman was allegedly raped and stabbed 14 times all over her body while she was on her way to work in Mariental. At Tseiblaagte in Keetmanshoop, a woman (age unknown) was dragged into a riverbed by six men and raped by four of them, while at Okahao, a girl of 19 was raped by the driver of a taxi she was taking to hospital.

The 2009 bulletins contain details of 14 charges of gang rape, of which the youngest victim was 12 years old. The oldest victim was a woman of 63, who was raped in the Otamanzi constituency. The Police justified the cancellation of their daily crime bulletins by saying that providing detail about cases under investigation “creates a climate of guilt around the person arrested or suspected of having committed a crime”.

In January, Police Deputy Inspector General Vilio Hifindaka said NamPol would in future only make “selective data” available to the public through the media. He said only “authorised information” on wanted and missing persons, crime prevention education on emerging crimes, tips on how to prevent crimes in specific towns or areas and how to access various police services would be made public.