15 February 2013

Namibia: Catholic Church Wants More Govt Commitment to Social Issues

Windhoek — The Roman Catholic Church in Namibia has called on the government to respect and honour the agreements signed between the two. Only then would the Namibian Catholic Church be able to fully roll out programmes for the upliftment of the Namibian people.

Secretary General of the Namibian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Father Thomas Manninezhath, made the plea in an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with New Era in Windhoek this week. The Roman Catholic Church in Namibia, he said, is the forerunner in taking care of the destitute and less fortunate in the country but its efforts are hampered by government's non-commitment to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), that the church has with the government.

Manninezhath declined to get into the details of the signed MoU only saying the MoU covers education and health. The MoU in the area of education was signed in 2011 while the MoU on health was signed five years ago.

"[But] not everything in the MoU's is being well respected. Education is partly okay but health is not okay. I must tell you that if we get more funding or a subsidy from the government or if the government respects our Memorandum of Understanding we can do better," Manninezhath said.

Manninezhath also declined to mention the amount of subsidy the Roman Catholic in Namibia receives from the government, only saying: "It depends on the MoU, it keeps changing but it's in terms of percentages."

Yet, he said, if the same amount of money given to state hospitals were to be given to the Catholic institution "things would be entirely different". Manninezhath said the two parties are soon to meet for the evaluation of the MoU, adding that "government listens" when such concerns are raised.

Manninezhath also expressed concern with what seems to be half-commitment on the part of the Council of Churches in Namibia to the MoU.

"The National Planning Commission signed a MoU with the Council of Churches in Namibia to look into a number of projects and again that issue was discussed. We even went to see the President and even the director was there, but nothing is taking place. Generally, yes, that's the idea but it's not well implemented, we can do far better."

The Roman Catholic Church in Namibia has 40 kindergartens, 27 hostels, 19 primary schools and seven secondary schools countrywide. Catholic schools fall under Category C in the Ministry of Education's books and only provide school and hostel buildings. The Ministry of Education, on the other hand, is responsible for the salaries of teachers, other staff members and additional expenses.

Furthermore, the church has four hospitals, excluding the one in Windhoek's Central Business District, and seven clinics countrywide.

The Catholic AIDS Action (CAA), founded in 1998 through the Namibian Catholic Bishops' Conference, is Namibia's first church-based response to the country's HIV/AIDS pandemic. It works with Catholic parishes, faith communities and the community in the areas of home based care, counselling, youth education, prevention care and support to orphans and vulnerable children. "The Catholic AIDS Action is doing wonderfully well," Manninezhath said.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Alfred Ilukena, when contacted for comment yesterday said he is not aware of the part in the MoU that is not being respected, and that such concerns were not brought to his attention.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Andrew Ndishishi, was in a meeting when contacted for comment.

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