Bishop Kameeta Appointed to Namibian Presidential Council

Bishop emeritus Dr Zephania Kameeta. Photo: LWF/C. Kästner

Deep Faith Convictions in Advocacy for Justice

(LWI) – Bishop emeritus Dr Zephania Kameeta of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) has been appointed as a member of the presidential council of Namibian President-elect Hage Geingob.

The 2 February nomination of Kameeta, who also serves on the Council of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), comes after years of ELCRN-led efforts to eradicate poverty in Namibia. When a government-appointed commission called for a universal grant in Namibia in 2002, the ELCRN helped form the Basic Income Grant (BIG) coalition which now includes other civil society organizations advocating for social service support as part of national policy.

The coalition pioneered the BIG initiative in 2006 with a two-year pilot project for 900 people in the impoverished community of Otjivero-Omitara, 100 kilometers from the capital Windhoek. The identified families received a monthly income of 100 Namibian dollars per head to reduce poverty and inequality and foster economic development.

The coalition’s reports about the project’s impact indicated that the initiative cut malnutrition rates from 42 percent to 10 percent, while school attendance improved and children attended class with cleaner and better uniforms. The goal is to get the Namibian government to take on such a program nationally.

While the BIG program has its critics who claim that some recipients spent the money on alcohol, Kameeta was quick to defend it, stating, “I know there are people who do not want to let go of the past and try to justify their vested interests by all means. These are not new people, nor is their rhetoric new.”

Namibia is a mineral-rich country of 2.1 million people but marked by high economic inequalities. An estimated 75 percent of its population lives below the poverty line and two-thirds rely on subsistence agriculture.

In a recent interview with Lutheran World Information (LWI), Kameeta reflected on the poverty he sees all around him, saying, “I don’t know how the people are living. You can see the situation in the faces of the people, the hopelessness. People have literally nothing.”

While the churches of Namibia have a responsibility to help those in poverty, they too are poor, he said. “They depend on poor people to do what they should be doing [to help alleviate poverty in society],” Kameeta added.

The ELCRN and the other two Lutheran churches in Namibia, will together host the Twelfth Assembly of the LWF in Windhoek in 2017, the year also marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The LWF’s longstanding collaboration with the Namibian churches goes back to the country’s liberation struggle, and in later years through the Department for Mission and Development. During the drought that hit the country in 2012/2013, the Department for World Service supported the Lutheran churches in a cash transfer program for 4,500 people severely affected by the crisis.

Congratulating the LWF Council member for his appointment to the presidential council, LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge said “Kameeta’s public presence, his calling for justice and reminding us of the dignity of all persons has a long trajectory and is well respected. It has always been carried by deep faith convictions.”

Junge continued: “Based on these same convictions, he now follows a new call to serve the Namibian people. This is indeed a wonderful embodiment of what vocation means in our own theological tradition. The LWF congratulates Bishop Kameeta wholeheartedly and prays for strength and wisdom as he prepares for his new responsibilities.”

Kameeta was born on 7 August 1945 at Otjimbingwe, educated at the Rhenish Mission School at Karibib and ordained a pastor in 1972. He was elected as moderator of the Wuppertal (Germany)-based United Evangelical Mission in 2000 and consecrated as ELCRN bishop in 2002. He was LWF Vice-President for the Africa region from 2003 to 2010.

Before Namibia’s independence Kameeta was arrested and imprisoned by the South African government. After the country’s independence in 1990, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly and the first and second Parliament of the Republic of Namibia, serving as deputy speaker of the National Assembly. He has been serving as chairperson of Namibia’s Social Security Commission.