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An African Story

The witch, dementia and the Wicking Dementia Centre: AN AFRICAN STORY

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, Founder and CEO of ADN (Alzheimer Dementia Namibia)

One sunny afternoon (there is not many of them in Swakopmund) in April 2018, I stopped at the Gas station to fill up my car.

Normally waiting for the pump to finish his job, petrol attendants will always look at the branding-sticker on my door (African Witchfinder/ADN - Alzheimer Dementia Namibia). The pictures normally attract their attention and then the conversation to follow will usually go like this:

"Do you wonder who the people are on the pictures?"

"Yes sir".

And then I get out of the car and start telling the stories about the "Witches" in the pictures and explain Dementia and the causes of Dementia by referring to the people in the pictures.

"This is Tjikuu (grandmother) Ndjinaa, an Ovahimba lady who was chained for 20 years in a hut, receiving with only 250-500 ml water a day and food leftovers, if there was, and being called a Witch."

"Tjikuu Sabina was killed because her grandson believed the witchdoctor that he (the grandson of Sabina) will never have a relationship with a woman or find a job while the Witch (Sabina, his grandmother) is alive, so he killed her on the 3rd of April 2018"

"And Petrus, the Namibian Artist who was so-called bewitched and could not work for 6 years, drugged up by western medication (anti-psychotics) that caused his Dementia"

Connecting all of them, is a syndrome condition of the brain called: DEMENTIA.

Dementia is terminal, progressive and degenerative caused by almost 100 different brain diseases such as: Alzheimers, Hiv-Aids Related Dementia, etc. The latter it seems is more prevalent in Africa, and not Alzheimers.


That Afternoon, in April 2018, my awareness target/listener asked me: "Do you believe that witches exist, sir?"

I replied, "No".

And then he, Hamutena, said: "Our neighbours accused my mother of being a witch. She was nearly killed by her neighbour and is now hiding with my siblings in the bush in The Kavango".

A month later I picked up his brother, Andrias, in Rundu and he guided me to his mother, Frankhilde, about 50 km from Rundu:

Prescribed disengagement from life to a person living with Dementia never equals quality of life!!!! – Kate Swaffer

When I've met Frankhilde (the Witch of Siya) for the first time, she was crossing the two-track sand road nearby her village. That was May 2018. I felt very sorry for her and her son Andrias, who was with us (that's myself, Andrias, my daughter Sufrani and Sufrani's American friend, Lo) in the car.

She worn a dress which was dirty and very worn down. She had a small branch of some berry tree in her hand with a few berries on it, which she was picking one by one and was eating. Even Andrias took a while to recognise the lady crossing the road in front of us.

All of a sudden he shouted: "That's my mum!". I stopped the car, he jumped out and fetched her. She looked very lost and confused until she recognised her son.

We've asked if we could talk to her and she invited us, with a warm smile but still unsure, to her village. She got in the car with us, and we drove a relative short distance to her village. There were only two small huts with thatched roofs and one was still half built. There were two daughters and two smaller sons. Her one daughter had a baby. The girls were busy pounding a few hands full of Mahangu (Also known as pearl millet, is a subsistence rain fed cereal crop which is the major staple food for over 50% of the Namibian population) in order that there could be something else as a few berries on a branch to eat tonight.

There was no water in the village. Frankhilde told her son that the neighbour from whose well they normally collected water daily, stopped them and didn't want to allow them to collect water before they pay their monthly arrears of N$ 20 per month (USA $1.30 or £1) per month. They already owed him 3 months (N$ 60) payment for water. We gave her money to pay their water debt and extra for another 3-4 months. We also drove to the nearest Cuca Shop (A Cuca shop is an African term for a "Shebeen": an unlicensed house selling alcoholic/liquor) and bought them a 50kg bag of maize.

What became very clear to me during our conversation is that she is living with Dementia caused by HIV-AIDS. This was confirmed by a Neurologist Neuroscientists (Prof William HU) from Atlanta University, who runs his own private Lab. He sent me a questionnaire, which he has put together after he asked me a lot of questions regarding the Kavango people. An MMSE clinical test is also part of that questionnaire. At the end of October we sat down with her and Andrias as my translator, and for nearly two hours I asked her questions and jotted down the answers. I've sent it to Prof Hu and he confirmed that she seems to have 'Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) of 1, consistent of mild Dementia'.

I've visited her again two months later to start the process to get justice for her. We've found someone quite different from two months before. She looked healthier, happier and much stronger.

Why her attackers were not being jailed was not very clear to me at that time. A month later I went back to hear the full story and see in which way ADN (Alzheimer Dementia Namibia) could help her to live a normal life again.

I've visited her again on 2nd July 2018 and wrote down the next:


In 2012, her neighbour accused her of being a witch because she was hard working and had cattle, goats, more than enough Mahangu for her family and even the neighbours and a prosperous "Cuca" Shop.

Jealousy is always the first power that unleash accusations of witchcraft and to point fingers to someone being a witch in the community or family.

On top of the jealousy, her neighbours' son, died from a heart attack while playing soccer. This boy was also her son, Andrias', friend.

In January 2013, Franklide Katumbu Haingura was attacked by her neighbour and her daughter, who crushed Frankhilde's skull with a stone, and left her behind for dead. But she survived the attack and laid a charge against Albinos Carthilde and Carolina Kampangu, the two accused.

Today we drove 122 km to Kahange police station and court in the West Kavango region to investigate why the court docket about this case was transferred from Rundu court to Kahange and why was the accused released from jail 4 and a half years ago, while Franklide Katumbu Haingura had to sell everything she owned to pay 3 witchdoctors to proof her innocence in front of the traditional court and be cleared by the FUMU (King) that she is NOT A WITCH.

The first two people we came across at Kahange police station and court was 2 officials from the court who just laughed at us, when I explained why we were there.

They told me that all witches need to be sent to the far south where there is no trees and they can be expose to the sun and left to die.

I was so livid, if my name was not Berrie J Holtzhausen, but Donald J Trump, I would have Tweeted: "I just fired every single court official in the Kavango!"

After many questions, we were seated in the office of the station commander, a very friendly and helpful guy.

He called one of his co-workers and instructed him to find out what happened to this court case. The answer was short and direct:

"The case was struck from the role".

"Why?!" I asked.

No one knew the answer to this question at this point in time. He then asked for the court docket.

"On the 16 December 2013 the magistrate gave instructions to strike the case from the role. The reason…..: (WAIT FOR IT…)

"The accused are not able to find legal aid!"


The station commander just shook his head and gave instructions to open it again.

Franklide Katumbu Haingura was given the opportunity to lay a complaint for the second time.

After more than an hour, we left the police station at Kahange and drove back with new hope that there will be justice for the so-called witch of Siya.

As an African, I again experienced the real challenges in Africa of a person living with HIV-AIDS related Dementia being accused as a "witch".

Her son, only 22 years old, is a SUPER HUMAN, one of the people who will succeed to bring freedom to people living with Dementia in Africa.

It is people like him and his courageous mum that will bring the change in Africa and break down the walls of stigma and discrimination against people living with Dementia.

When I left the office of the Station Commander, I noticed the notice up against the wall:

"We are all equal in the eyes of God..."


Dementia connected me with the worst of people in society you can imagine and also with the best you can hope for!

One of the latter is Andrias Haingura, the son of Franklide Katumbu Haingura, one of the so-called Witches of the Kavango.

Andrias loves his mum dearly and unconditionally.

When she was accused as a Witch, Andrias was only 16 and in Grade 10.

As I already explained, his mum lost everything she owned because she had to sell the whole lot in order to pay 3 witchdoctors to "clear her from being a Witch".

After that sad day in their family's history, Andrias went to Rundu (40 km/ 25 miles from their village) to finish his school career. Because his mum lost everything he told her not to worry. He paid his school fees and hostel by working in a quarry weekends and holidays, hard physical labour, to earn money to pay for it.

He told me: "One must never put stress on your parents, that is why I never told them how my school fees and hostel were paid for".

He told me: "At the end of school holidays, my hands were painful and full of cuts, but at least I could pay my school fees and what was needed for me to finished school"

2018 he registered at UNAM (University of Namibia) in Rundu, only for English, in order that he can improve his English, before starting a Bachelors degree. His dream is to become a teacher.

It is 2019: 6 years down the road ADN and her son, Andrias, succeeded to get her case back on the court role.


A Note from Sufrani Uys, Deputy CEO of ADN:

"We would like to extend a massive THANK YOU to UTAS for making the MOOC available to everyone, and at a quality that just leaves us in awe! We have 5 participants all doing the MOOC:

I'm now running ADN alongside Dad, so the MOOC is of massive benefit to me. I'm redoing the MOOC, as do Dad. My husband is also busy with the MOOC, as he is our right hand and put a great deal into telling the stories of those who cannot speak through his photography, up until now mostly of our family on our Care Farm where we look after 23 PWD. Travelling up North with dad is planned for later in 2019.

Then we have Andrias who is also doing the MOOC, who is up North in Namibia, working more and more with Dad in the rural areas to educate his own people on Witchcraft and the link with Dementia and we hope to be able to assist him through funds so he can be part of ADN in the long run. We are fighting for human rights for all the so-called Witches/Wizards and PWD and hopefully we'll (one day) see the Human Rights Law in Namibia be re-instated and in full force. Andrias walks a few kilometres every day to the library in his closest town where he has access to wi-fi and a computer to complete the MOOC:

Then we have a Registered Nurse who has been working in the North at a Clinic, specialising in HIV-AIDS, who is now also doing the MOOC. Our own Nurse who has been working with ADN for many years, has sadly been diagnosed in December with a rare form of Dementia, and as much as we wanted her to stay on with us, as family they've decided for her to rather go on pension. Mr Jim will take over from her and particularly play a massive role in our rural communities and HIV-AIDS related Dementia so we can breakdown stigma and discrimination through education and awareness.

We are forever grateful!

May the Wicking Dementia Centre just go from strength to strength!

We salute you, THANK YOU"

****ADN is working in collaboration with Professor Hu Willam, a highly respected Neurologist and Neuroscientist from the HU-Lab in Atlanta, USA. The suggestion is that Africa is most probably not Alzheimer prevalent, but rather HIV-AIDS Dementia prevalent, and with the assistance of Professor Hu, this is work-in-progress to confirm whether this is indeed the case.

The Documentary about my dad's work in the rural areas, called "The African Witchfinder", has received 3 International Awards and we hope to be able to release the documentary on social platforms within a few months. Tjikuu Ndjinaa, who was chained for 20 years, is doing very well and she is now staying with us at our Care Farm since March 2018: