Namibia: Squabble Over Bishops in Court

25 February 2019

THE dispute between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia's leaders over the selection of ineligible pastors as candidates for the post of bishop has been taken to the Windhoek High Court.

Church members Seth !Gaeb and Welfried Leyden !Naibab - through their lawyers at Ileni Gebhardt & Co - filed a court application on Friday to have the lists of candidates and nominations nullified.

The urgent court application was filed on the eve of the actual nomination process that took place yesterday across all 54 parishes in Namibia.

The election of a bishop will be made from these nominated candidates by April or May 2019.

!Gaeb and !Naibab are asking the High Court to have the list of candidates, from which the nominations were made, be declared null and void.

They also asked the court to declare deputy bishop Paul Kisting, Johanness de Klerk (deputy dean at Ebenhaeser Parish), Andreas !Nowaseb (deputy dean at Om-Khaitani Parish), Petrus #Khariseb (general secretary at head office) and Simon Tiboth (dean at Immanuel Parish), ineligible for the post of bishop.

Additionally, the duo asked the High Court to direct the electoral commission of the church - headed by fifth respondent George Dax, to compile and announce a new list of candidates by 15 March 2019.

Dax told The Namibian yesterday that he only became aware of the court application via the WhatsApp social media platform after a church member forwarded the information to him.

"There was no official contact, and I would also like to clarify that as long as you are in active service at the church or doing any work on behalf of the church, you qualify. Even if it is a centre, it is still working on behalf of the church," Dax stated.

The Namibian reported last week on complaints that the list of candidates included people who are older than 60 years when the age for elegibility is between 45 and 60.

The other issues raised were conflicts of interest; candidates who do not have five years' experience as ordained pastors; and those who have had their terms as pastors interrupted by sickness, suspension or studies.

ELECTIONS

The process of electing a bishop begins with the selection of candidates, who meet all requirements, and from this list, nominations are made from which a bishop would be elected.

The Namibian saw some of the nomination results from across the 54 parishes, where pastor Sageus //Keib of the Immanuel Parish was one of the top scorers, followed by Kisting and !Nowaseb.

At St Michael's congregation at Henties Bay, //Keib got 59 votes, pastor !Nowaseb got six, while pastor Tiboth and dean Abraham //Kheibeb got two votes each.

At Gobabis, //Keib got 85 votes, with pastor Abel Vries scoring 38 and dean Gerda Kayambu 21 votes.

In Windhoek at the Efesiërs Parish, //Keib got the highest votes, followed by Kisting, although sources could not reveal their scores.

At Aranos, pastor Andries Vilander scored 30 votes, followed by pastor George du Toit with 29 votes and Josefat Frederick with 27. //Keib got 22 votes, Kisting 17, //Kheibeb eight, #Khariseb eight, !Nowaseb seven and Tiboth four, while Vries scored two.

At Otjiwarongo, //Keib got 139 votes, Kisting 41 and //Kheibeb 14. At Okombahe, !Nowaseb topped with 120 votes, followed by //Keib with 50 and Kisting with 24.

At the small Kalkveld village, Kisting got eight votes, //Keib got three and !Nowaseb four.

At Walvis Bay's Shalom parish, //Keib got 83 votes, followed by Kayambu with 17 and !Nowaseb with 15 votes.

Dax said he was still waiting to hear from the commissioners about the final results by 18h00 yesterday evening.

Meanwhile, !Naibab led a small demonstration of around 20 people outside the ELCRN Efesiers Parish in Windhoek yesterday morning while the elections were taking place.

He told The Namibian yesterday that they wanted to show their dissatisfaction because the lists on which the nominations are based were flawed.

!Naibab said court summonses would be delivered today to all 24 respondents, who include the church's current bishop //Gamxamub, Kisting, Jan Beukes and Dax.

Kisting and Beukes were unreachable for comment, while bishop //Gamxamub is off sick. Associate general secretary Wilfred Diergaardt declined to comment on the demonstration when called yesterday afternoon.

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