African Witchfinder is the story of Berrie Holtzhausen, a 60yr old white Namibian living in the German colonial town of Swakopmund. After many decades as a pastor with the Dutch Reformed Church and living through the brutal turmoil of apartheid, Berrie trained in the area of Alzheimer’s and now he and the charity he runs, Alzheimer's Dementia Namibia, operate a dementia care home in the Namib desert.
Seeing an old friend, they visit a remote village of the Himba people, where Berrie discovers a woman chained to a post inside a decrepit mud hut. After talking with the chief of the village; the woman's brother and King of the Himba people, Berrie learns that she is considered possessed by evil spirits and accused of witchcraft, and has been chained for well over two decades. Realising she is showing signs of advanced dementia, he negotiates her freedom and relocates her to a purpose built care village a few hundred feet from the main site, where her physical and mental condition rapidly improves.
Investigating further into the superstitious beliefs of the Namibian population, he is shocked to learn that the belief in witchcraft is widespread through every community; both rural and urban. All through Namibia, people are being drugged, starved and even murdered after being accused of witchcraft, often by members of their own family and under advice from nefarious witchdoctors, the innocents taking the blame of coincidental bad luck or the target of petty jealousy. Covering thousands of miles, Berrie begins to travel through the rural areas of Namibia, visiting communities armed with the question ‘where are your witches?’ He meets with families, listens to their stories, and tries to bring them closer together, explaining the concept of mental illness, denouncing superstition, and spreading the word of love in an effort to stop the killing.
Fuelled by a deep humanity and extraordinary breadth of character, Berrie’s hope is to fight ignorance, fear, and jealousy when no one else wants to help. But the violence continues, and it seems as though the beliefs are so deeply ingrained in the culture of the people that his mission is almost impossible. African Witchfinder is an eye-opening exploration of hope and humanity in one of the quiet corners of the developing world.