14 May 2019

Namibia: Breakaway Church Ordered Off Hoachanas Property

A RELIGIOUS group that split from the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Namibia in 2005 has lost a court battle through which it tried to remain in control of a church property at Hoachanas in the Hardap region.

The breakaway New African Methodist Episcopal Church, led by reverend Petrus Kooper, who is also the traditional leader of the Kai-||Khaun Traditional Authority, are ejected from a property they have been occupying since breaking away from the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in 2005, judge Thomas Masuku ordered in a judgement delivered in the Windhoek High Court last week. He also ordered that the New AME Church should hand over the keys to the property, described as Erf 140, Hoachanas, to the AME Church, and that the New AME Church should pay the costs of the legal action that the AME Church took to have the breakaway church evicted from the church premises at Hoachanas.

Judge Masuku found that the AME Church did not show that it owned Erf 140 at Hoachanas. However, the church proved it had been in possession of the property from the time the pre-independence government granted it permission to occupy the erf in 1952 until Kooper and some fellow members of the AME Church split from the church around March 2005, he found.

Judge Masuku stated in his judgement that he concluded that Kooper exploited the fact that he was the pastor of the church at Hoachanas before the AME Church relieved him of his pastoral assignment in March 2005, which was followed by the expulsion of Kooper and a fellow member of the AME Church, Hendrick Gariseb, from the church in August 2005.

The judge also remarked that Kooper and his followers continued to occupy the church premises at Hoachanas, where a private school and hostel are also situated, as if nothing had happened regarding his expulsion. With the New AME Church formed only in December 2005, the new church could not occupy the premises before it was legally an entity and had rights in terms of the law, judge Masuku said. He also said that, with the AME Church having occupied the property since the 1950s, there was in his view no legally recognised manner in which Kooper, the New AME Church and other leading members of the church took over the property from the AME Church. "There is no denying that the property was given to [the AME Church] to occupy the premises," judge Masuku stated.

On an argument of Kooper that the church building at Hoachanas did not have a cornerstone, contrary to the prescripts of the AME Church, judge Masuku said that could not on its own be a ground for saying the church building does not belong to the AME Church, when the church had occupied the property for decades and had previously conducted services and other church activities in the building without objections against that.

Patrick Kauta represented the AME Church during the hearing of the case. Kooper and the New AME Church were represented by Ruben Philander.

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