THE sister of the woman whose body was discovered floating in the ocean in a suspected suicide at Independence Beach at Walvis Bay says she was depressed over alleged abuse at the supermarket where she worked.
The naked body of Fabiolla Zondjembo (25) was found on Thursday.
Although she did not leave behind a suicide note, her elder sister Isabella Zondjembo says she kept complaining about alleged maltreatment by her manager at a supermarket at the town.
She says Fabiolla said the manager often told her to resign as she could allegedly not do anything right.
The manager did not respond when contacted for comment yesterday.
Isabella says Fabiolla recently told her that her boss yelled at her and chased her out of her office after she told her her work badge was broken.
The following day the same manager allegedly asked Fabiolla where her badge was, and she explained that she tried to tell her about it the previous day.
She was then allegedly summoned to a hearing.
Isabella says she visited the shop on 10 January, and found her sister in tears, complaining that the manager was denying that she had reported the broken badge.
“I told her to just resign, because I could not see her unhappy any more. I offered to buy her a drink, but she refused. The following day, she told me she was the last person to leave the shop in the evenings because she had to clean up while the manager would stand by humiliating her.
“I heard the manager reported that Fabiolla was not behaving normally at work. She was normal at home though, except that she became withdrawn. The family is also puzzled that she was found naked,” she says.
Fabiolla was planning to study nursing, as one of her sisters who moved to London in December promised to finance this.
“During our last few conversations, she kept saying she would be remembered as the girl who fought for the freedom of other workers, because they are afraid to speak out about maltreatment.
“She wrote a note on the day of the hearing that we found in her files,” Isabella says.
Erongo police inspector Ileni Shapumba says security personnel of Rubicon Security Services who were stationed at Independence filling station told the police that a naked woman walked past the filling station in the direction of the sea on Wednesday evening.
The guards allegedly followed her, along with a taxi driver who seemed to also follow her from the Tutaleni informal settlement.
“They allegedly stopped following her as they were puzzled and at the same time feared to fall suspect to unforeseeable circumstances. They reported the matter to the police at the Tutaleni Police Station.
“A while later, at about 01h30, police officers from Kuisebmond and Tutaleni police stations arrived at the scene, followed the footprints from the tarred road towards the sea and found her body floating near the shore,” Shapumba says.
The deceased’s brother, Daniel Zondjembo, says his sister was in her room taking a bath when he returned from church on Wednesday at around 23h00.
“I thought she went to bed, until the police knocked on the door at around 02h00, asking where my sister was. She was not in the room. That is when the police broke the news to me,” he says.
Several of Zondjembo’s colleagues say they were waiting for the police to ask them questions as they have a lot to say, although they did not want their names published for fear of losing their jobs.
A security guard who works at the supermarket says he has witnessed how employees at the shop are being maltreated.
“I am not working for the shop itself but I have witnessed how the workers are humiliated in public, especially in front of customers,” he says.
A coworker of Zondjembo says Fabiolla was recruited as a front cashier, but instead worked at the front end, the deli and as a toilet cleaner.
“She is often the last person to leave as she had to reclean the shop and has been told not to complain about it. We have heard the supervisor shouting at her many times that she would make life difficult so that she would resign.
“On Wednesday when she was at work for the last time she did not talk to anybody. She was just cleaning,” a coworker says.
‘CRYING IN BED’
An aunt of one of Zondjembo’s colleagues says she was worried about her niece at work.
“It is bad that this issue had to come to this, but maybe there will be a solution. I kept watching my niece crying in bed after complaining about maltreatment at work.
“Sometimes she sat at home just staring into space. They are all depressed and nobody knows about it, because they need to keep their jobs,” she says.
Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union Erongo regional representative Johannes Shayuka said that he was shocked to hear the sad news.
“We have a recognition agreement with the shop. Some of them are our members, while some are not, but we keep informing everybody that we will never turn anyone away. Workers are intimidated when they report cases to us, to the point that they are in danger of losing their jobs. People are therefore afraid to come to us.
“We keep telling the employees not to sign just any paper. These papers of every small warning are piled up and used against them at disciplinary hearings. From our side we will make a follow up and see which action we will take against the company” he said.
A clinical psychologist at Swakopmund Willie van der Merwe says suicidal individuals often suffer from depression for various reasons, leaving them feeling hopeless and unloved.
“Suicidal people have different behaviours, but you will notice when there is a big change in their behaviour. Some may become withdrawn and just want to keep to themselves.
“Some have sleepless nights. They may threaten that they will do something and may become manipulative. Some will stop taking care of themselves.
“If you notice something suspicious about the person, it is better to lend an ear,” he says.
Van der Merwe advises people who feel depressed to try to talk to someone they are comfortable with, like a psychologist, pastor, close family member or friend.
He says unhappy employees should try to look for another job, while still holding on to their current job, as unemployment may cause additional problems.