18 May 2017

Namibia: Catholics the 'Saviour' for Broke CCN

Windhoek — The Catholic Church in Namibia has advanced a N$700 000 loan to the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN), which is on the verge of collapse due to a devastating financial crisis.

CCN needs at least N$3 million to continue with its operations as a non-governmental organisation.

CCN's acting secretary-general, Ludwig Beukes, told New Era yesterday the organisation owes the Windhoek Municipality N$219 000 for electricity and N$308 000 for water.

Beukes further confirmed the CCN owes Telecom Namibia N$43 000 and that its telephone line has been disconnected for the last six months.

Beukes explained that some of its programmes had to be stopped because of a lack of funds.

The faith, justice and society unit at the CCN - which had an important task of teaching society on matters related to faith and justice - had to close down completely because of no funds.

Similarly, the gender-based violence unit had to be shifted to a member church in order to sustain it, added Beukes.

Beukes also said they had to sell two houses, one in Wanaheda and another in Pioneers Park, to settle some of its debts, but this did not solve the council's financial woes.

The organisation derives its income from donors who were the main financial source, member churches as well as through the rental of some of its properties.

Following Namibia's classification as a middle-income country many donors withdrew from Namibia as well as their support of CCN and other organisations they had funded.

"Despite the dwindling donor funds the cost of living is going up and that is how we ended up in this situation," Beukes explained.

He added that some NGOs have gone as far as selling all their buildings to settle their debts.

Beukes said that currently only two donor organisations are funding the CCN's operations, namely the Global Fund (for its HIV/AIDS programmes) and the Fellowship of Christian Council in Southern Africa.

Member churches have to contribute 10 cents per member to the CCN. However, member churches are struggling to pay their dues as well, Beukes explained. The CCN has 16 members and the majority are mainline churches, said Beukes.

"Ten cents sounds so little but member churches are struggling to pay because they also have their own problems. Last year these so-called prophets made up to N$1 million from church members - it means there is money but in the collection the congregants only give coins," charged Beukes.

The CCN's staff complement has also reduced drastically to just ten employees.

"In the past we had many staff members but because we could not carry the financial needs some resigned while we let others go when the faith, justice and society unit closed down," said Beukes.

The financial problems have also made it impossible for the organisation to appoint a de facto secretary-general, Beukes added.

"This [problem] has been coming for long now and it's up and down."

But Beukes said all hope is not lost. "As a faith-based organisation we are trusting the Lord (for financial assistance)."

The CCN was formed in 1978 to bring all churches in Namibia, except Afrikaans churches, together.

In 1986, the CCN issued the Ai-Gams Declaration which called on Namibians of every faith to demonstrate their rejection of South African rule and their support for the implementation of UN (United Nations) Resolution 435 for the independence of Namibia.

"CCN then had more than 100 members," Beukes said. He added that the organisation remains relevant to addressing the societal and spiritual needs of society today.

"The role of the CCN has changed over time from implementing partner to facilitating partner but we feel we still have a role to play. When there is a political confrontation it is easier to listen to the church than to politicians." He said the CCN is there to empower member churches to serve the community.

He said the CCN has a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to outsource some government functions. That way the CCN was able to carry out its mandate.

There are more than 400 CCN volunteers involved in the CCN's HIV/AIDS programme, whose mandate includes giving out information on HIV/AIDS and administering home-based care for the sick.

Beukes called for financial contributions to assist the organisation.

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