Namibia: The Healing Church Member Drowns During Coastal 'Cleansing' Ceremony

Swakopmund, Nambia - A member of the Windhoek-based 'The Healing Church', Vetjituavi Cloete (25), was swept away by waves and drowned during a 'cleansing' ceremony in the sea at Vierkantklip, just south of Swakopmund.

A group from the church apparently visited Swakopmund for 'cleansing'. According to the pastor who led the ceremony, it has nothing to do with baptism or the washing away of sins, sicknesses or problems.

"It's something we do every year. We just go and wash ourselves in the sea, a big body of water created by God," Pastor Josef Kanguiku said.

He refused to reveal his full name to The Namibian yesterday. The Police in Swakopmund confirmed his details late yesterday afternoon. It is not clear why the pastor refused to give his details. He told The Namibian that the church group went to Vierkantklip at around 05h30 on Saturday, "but it was still too dark", so they waited a while.

At around 06h40 small groups of three people each went into the shallows to 'wash' themselves. Cloete was in the fourth group.

"A wave suddenly knocked all three of us over, and while it pushed me and another member out of the water, the backwash dragged Cloete deeper. He tried to keep his head above water.

"Another wave came in and pushed him towards the shore, and we went after him. We grabbed hold of him to draw him out, but just then the current would again simply suck us all back in, breaking our grip on him," the pastor recalled.

This to-and-fro effort to help Cloete was repeated about three or four times.

"We realised we needed help, and we rushed to the Swakopmund Police. The rest of the congregation was left to keep an eye on Cloete with some attempts to save him," the pastor said.

When the Police arrived "Cloete was gone", and by yesterday his body had not been recovered. The Police told The Namibian that the search continued, and that anyone who might see the body should contact the Police. According to Pastor Kanguiku, this is the first time in the church's 30-year existence that such a tragedy has happened.