They Were Labeled Witches. They Just Had Dementia.
In tribal communities across Namibia, older, eccentric people are often accused of witchcraft and violently attacked. One man realized it was something else entirely.
The Kahenge West courtroom in northeastern Namibia was full; people spilled out into the hallway to hear the ruling. “Villagers, neighbors, policemen — everyone wants to see what will happen, but no one was allowed to make a peep inside,” says Berrie Holtzhausen, whose body was taut with tension that day. When he heard the verdict, he clenched his fists, straining to keep his emotions in check. As soon as the judge ended the session, Holtzhausen immediately stood up, walked backward and bowed before exiting the courtroom, as is the custom here. Then he dashed down the hallway raising his arms in a victory “V” and shaking them, miming a shout without sound. In the parking lot, he beelined to his vehicle and drove just a short distance before stopping the car, getting out on the side of the road and jumping for joy. “I shouted my lungs empty,” he recalls. “I was so joyful!”
The judge had sentenced two women from Siya village for the crime of accusing a neighbor, …
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