Spate of suicides at coast spark concern

By Confidente Reporter

IT appears that the psychological and financial pressures brought on by the three-year recession, lockdown restrictions and job losses have had a deleterious effect on public mental health. In the Erongo region alone, two suicides were recorded in the past two weeks.

Prior to the lockdown, the suicide rate in the Erongo region was already reaching new peaks, with authorities reporting that self-murder had claimed at least 27 lives between mid-September and mid-November 2019. Men, many of whom are breadwinners, make up the largest number of suicide victims but an increasing number of young people have fallen victim.

In the latest crime report, the Namibian Police this week had it that a 30-year-old man, Gerson Si Disho, on 22 May arrived with a gun at his former workplace at Ocean Village Apartments along Seal Road at Mile 4 just to the north of Swakopmund at about 09h05 that morning.

It was not immediately clear how and when Si Disho lost his job. On arriving at Ocean Village Apartments he saw his former colleagues busy offloading tools, and – according to the police – started shooting at people nearby. He at first shot at one of the workers, but narrowly missed, then wanted to shoot some more but the other workers had run out of sight before he could fire directly at them.

The police said the charge office at Swakopmund received a report a few minutes after the shooting incident that someone had committed suicide along the beach near the Salt Company.

“The police found the lifeless body laying with a pistol on his right thigh. Preliminary investigation at the scene indicated that the deceased ended his life by shooting himself in the head. He was later identified as the same person who was shooting at his ex-colleague as mentioned above,” Deputy Commissioner Erastus Iikuyu reported.

He said a suicide note was found in the victim’s pocket, but did not disclose the details contained in it.

News of Si Disho’s apparent suicide comes a week after another body washed out along the beach near Walvis Bay on 21 May. In a case of suspected suicide by drowning, the police said the body of 41-year-old Erastus Shihala was found by a passerby a week after he had gone missing.

Shihala reportedly left his residence on Wednesday 13 May after an argument with his brother and was reported missing on 14 May at Tutaleni Police Station. His remains were found at about 14h30 on 21 May along the sea near the new oil jetty near Tutaleni, a few kilometres from where he reportedly walked into the sea.

According to Iikuyu, on the day Shihala left the family residence “he allegedly sent numerous messages to his relatives, saying that he had gone into the sea. His clothes, cellphone and wallet with documents were later found at Independence Beach, Kuisebmond.

“The deceased’s body was found by a public member who was driving on the coastline and he immediately notified the police. There are no visible open wounds on the body of the deceased. The body was positively identified by the family members. It is suspected that the victim committed suicide by walking into the sea and eventually drowned.”

In another gruesome end to a young life, the police reported last week that a 28-year-old paramedic from Swakopmund committed suicide on 6 May by setting himself alight at a secluded place, an old pump station near town, where Warrick Fortuin reportedly died from the 90 percent burn wounds he sustained in the fire.

The police ruled out murder and said all indications from the post mortem were that Fortuin drank petrol and or paraffin and possibly poured fuel on himself before setting himself on fire. They said he was caught on CCTV camera at a nearby fuel station buying petrol in a two-litre container prior to the incident.

Ahead of the lockdown, a 15-year old girl, a Grade 8 learner at Walvis Bay took her life on 10 March. She was found at the family home hanging from the bathroom ceiling by her brother, the police said. “When her brother arrived home at around 18h00 he found her in the house [alive and well]. Around 20h00 he called her but got no reply. He went to check on her and saw that the bathroom door was locked. He peeped through the keyhole and saw her body hanging. He broke down the door and found that she had used a scarf tied to the roof to commit suicide,” Iikuyu said.

Frieda Dhiginina was a Grade 8 learner. Her alleged suicide came barely three days after 47-year old Abraham Uuwanga, also at Walvis Bay committed suicide at his home in Kuisebmond. He told his family that he was going to work on Friday 6 March at around 14h00 but was found dead at home the next day. “On Saturday morning at 10h40, the home owner found the deceased hanging from the roof in the garage. He was living with his two children and his wife was staying in the north. No suicide note was left and no foul play is suspected,” the police said.