Uuvudhiya-Residents of Andambombali No.2 in Uuvudhiya Constituency in the Oshana Region are concerned about an underaged girl, who has been cohabiting with a 34-year-old cattle herder since the age of 12 when she was in Grade 3 at a nearby school.
The teenager, who is now aged 16, dropped out of school because of the relationship with the older man. The cattle herder happens to be employed by Constituency Councillor Amutenya gwaNdahafa.
Letta Keendjele, the grief-stricken mother of the girl, is adamant that the relevant government ministries and agencies failed to intervene to rescue her child from the relationship with the older man.
She also fears for the life of her daughter, who is sickly with a chronic illness and must adhere to a treatment routine, but has since abandoned the treatment because of the relationship with the herder.
“I have called the Ministry of Gender [and Child Welfare] last year to come and see the situation, but up to now nothing has been done. I called the police through the members of Women and Men Network. They also came, but nothing has been done up to now,” an emotional Keendjele said.
The village cluster headman, Elia Mavulu, who accompanied New Era to the cattlepost, urged law enforcement to take action against the man, as the relationship falls within the scope of statutory rape.
Mavuluy said it was not right that young girls are dropping out of school to live with men much older than they are.
The girl was indiferent to the entire fracas unravelling at their village when the reporter, the village headman, community police and the constituency counciller arrived to familiarise themselves with the situation.
Stoic in her posture as she spoke, the girl bluntly told New Era that she lived with her “roomie”, because he occassionally gives her N$100, which she needs for transport to hospital.
The girl also brushed aside the elders who argued that she needed to concentrate on her studies, retorting that there was no need to attend school, as she is a sickly person.
The cattle herder, who identified himself as Nangolo Immanuel, was not so welcoming to a reporter accompanying elders to enquire about their relationship. After some prodding he threatened to harm this reporter with a panga.
The councillor and employer of the cattle herder, gwaNdahafa, told New Era that he had known of the relationship when it was still in its infancy and had intervened before to ask the couple to stop seeing one another.
“I told them that it is culturally wrong to cohabit at the cattlepost. I told them to stop it last year. Nevertheless, they did not stop. I just don’t know why these people do not want to listen,” he said.
Keendjele said the illicit affair started when the child was in Grade 3 and led to the girl dropping out of school to become a full time live-in girlfriend at the cattlepost.
The whole time Keendjele and the family had thought the girl was living with her grandmother in a nearby village.
More worrying to the family is the fact that the girl is sickly and needs to regularly take medication.
The neighbours at GwaNdahafa’s cattlepost have allegedly taken it upon themselves to always inform the girl’s mother when she falls sick and that is the only opportunity the distraught mother gets to see her child.
The girl tends to run away and return to her lover once she gets better.
The mother, who was emotionally distraught while discussing her daughter’s situation, said she has now ventured into hunting and grilling rats to sell to generate an income to enable her to take her child to hospital as she falls sick now and then, because she is no longer on treatment. A grilled mouse sells for N$5.
Mavulu said the Keendjele family feeds on hunted rats and drought relief, as the family crop field, which is not fenced off, is often destroyed by livestock from the village.