AS Namibia continues to battle the third Covid-19 wave that sees a high number of infections and deaths, former footballers Marley Ngarizemo and Steven Mbaisa have opened up about burying multiple family members on one day.
Mbaisa (46) buried six family members in one day, while Ngarizemo (42) witnessed the burial of three of his relatives on the same day after they succumbed to Covid-19.
Ngarizemo has lost 15 family members as a result of Covid-19 complications, while Mbaisa has lost eight relatives thus far.
Ngarizemo says his father, Naftalie Katuuo, who had just turned 80, succumbed to the virus, and his older brother followed suit a week later.
The other deceased family include three of his brothers, his sister-in-law, an aunt and some uncles.
“Their deaths occurred within the space of a month, from the first week of June to the first week of July. It has really been hard for my family, but we have had to accept the tragedies as a family,” Ngarizemo, a former Brave Warriors player, says.
Namibia saw 1 064 Covid-19 deaths announced in July – an increase from 726 deaths announced in June.
This is after the country recorded only 187 deaths in May this year.
Yesterday, 63 Covid-19 deaths were announced.
What causes concern is that as of yesterday, 565 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised with 115 in intensive care units (ICUs) – an increase from the 112 in ICU the day before.
To date, the country has recorded a total of 113 905 infections, with 90 199 recoveries, and a total of 2 620 deaths.
Ngarizemo says the hardest was losing one of his brothers and his sister-in-law consecutively.
“I mean, at one funeral we had to bury three family members. On the day of the burial of an aunt of mine, my brother and his wife, and my father, who had tested positive earlier on after attending a funeral, had to be hospitalised,” he says.
The former footballer says he cannot believe his father, who was an iron man, died the way he did.
He says his father, who died on 23 June, could have been saved if it were not for the oxygen shortage the country has faced at the peak of the third wave.
The late Katuuo was a senior councillor in the Maharero Royal House, and Ngarizemo describes him as a man who was well known for his leadership skills and for being a gentleman.
Katuuo had 32 children in total.
“He was also well respected by his community. The most painful thing is the fact that he could not say goodbye to us, but also the fact that as an iron man, he did not deserve to die the way he did,” Ngarizemo says.
He says the family has been trying to come to terms with the death of his father, who was in a stable condition before he passed on, citing they cannot pinpoint exactly what caused his sudden death.
“Two days after being hospitalised, our father was put on oxygen, and as far as we were concerned, he was in a stable condition. It looks like they may have taken him off the oxygen to give to another patient, but we will never know.
“We would have wanted to understand what exactly transpired,” he says.
His 12-year-old daughter lost both her paternal and maternal grandfathers on the same day due to Covid-19.
Ngarizemo, who is also the coach of Young Africans, the football club he started, says at the time of the deaths and funerals six family members were hospitalised, but they are better now and are isolating at home.
He coaches at Aminuis in the Omaheke region.
“On a positive note, we have not lost anyone to the disease of late, and this is a good thing,” he says.
Ngarizemo, who has been fully vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine, says more Ovaherero people are now realising the seriousness of the pandemic and are getting vaccinated.
“I got my first jab on 28 May. Previously, my community was scared to get vaccinated, coming up with various conspiracies, but now they are making sure they get vaccinated,” he says.
CHILDREN IN SHOCK
Meanwhile, Mbaisa says six of his family members who were buried on the same day died in the space of two weeks.
This includes two uncles, one who was the Mbaisa family’s elder, Vavii Mbaisa (81).
“All six caskets left from one household, and were buried at the same cemetery,” Mbaisa says.
Other family members include an aunt, a cousin and a grandmother.
“We buried an aunt on Saturday, but another family member died earlier today (yesterday). It is an uncle,” Mbaisa, also a former Brave Warriors player, yesterday said.
He is also African Stars’ former captain and assistant coach at Young Africans with Ngarizemo at Aminuis.
He said most of the deaths caught them by surprise, but the older family members have had to accept this.
“There are a few family members, the younger ones, who have, however, not fully accepted the deaths. This could also be because they were in shock as they were probably close to the family members who had died,” Mbaisa said.
The burials took place at Otjinene in the Omaheke region.