By Kelvin Chiringa
Some members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) have expressed fear that election results for a new bishop may be rigged as information around the whereabouts of the ballot papers was sketchy over the past week.
A source within the church, which refused to be named, disclosed that the Namibian police refused to take the ballot papers for safe keeping after Bishop Ernst Gamxamub wrote a letter requesting for same.
“I was told yesterday (Wednesday) that the police totally refused to take the things that were not accounted for. The thing that all of us are asking (is) how safe the ballot papers are wherever they are. No one is communicating; even the church’s electoral commission is not saying anything. How sure should we be that the things were not tempered with?
(Postponement of the elections) is what many people are addressing,” said the source.
He further disclosed that presently “the church is totally divided and the cause of that division is the current bishop.”
The bishop has been accused of failing to make critical decisions and that he was being remote controlled “by one of the candidates, who is the deputy bishop” who happens to be Pastor Paul Kisting.
“He is power hungry. He has been a deputy bishop and pastor for quite a long period,” said the source.
“We will never accept Kisting as bishop”
Meanwhile, an ex-cleric, Chris Gurirab said they will not accept Kisting in the event that he makes it to the helm of the church as Bishop.
The retired man of cloth belongs to a faction of aggrieved church members who dispute the candidature of Kisting.
He told The Patriot that it would be difficult for Kisting to work with many of the church’s pastors should he win the elections.
Kisting’s bid for the church’s highest office is the bone of contention that has divided the ELCRN which last Sunday went into a highly disputed election that followed a High Court battle that challenged his age as illegitimate.
Gurirab and his faction are on record stating that the deputy bishop’s age is beyond the constitutionally prescribed limit of 45 to 60.
According to documents seen by this publication, Kisting is said to have been born on the 11th of December 1957, meaning he turned 60 in December 2017.
“We submit that he ceased to be eligible to stand for the position upon attainment of the age of 60. The same applies to the 21st respondent (!Nowaseb) who equally turned 60 in December 2018,” the faction said in court papers.
Although this faction lost the court bid to stop Kisting in his tracks on a technical point, the faction went on to vote in the elections but “under protest”.
Given the grievances in the church from the faction which claims to be upholding the spirit of the church’s highest law, the future of the church’s ability to sustain unity has been put to question.
“He is not properly elected. How should we accept that? Even in the court papers, our lawyer said if this bishop who is over age is elected, if he is to contact the pastors, and having violated the constitution, who is going to accept everything that bishop has done? That is the point. We are against the violation of the constitution,” said Gurirab.
Spokesperson for the aggrieved party, Abner Axel Xoagub has also voiced that Kisting should “do the honorable thing” and step down adding that any future role he may play as bishop would cause further divisions. Xoagub has expressed that the Sunday elections should be overturned in light of noted inconsistences which characterised the voting process where he claimed that only 4% of the entire membership voted.
“The right thing for him would be to step down. He has been a bishop for 12 years and he needs to be a role model. The church needs to be a role model when it comes to good governance, ethical practices and transparency.
People are going to ask these leaders who do not respect the constitution, who are not ethical, who do not want to hold transparent elections, where are they going to take this church when they come to power. They are already in power and they are doing these things.”
Kisting refused to comment and referred all questions to the ELCRN acting General Secretary, Pastor Wilfred Diergaardt.
Diergaardt on his part has called for “unity, love, neighborliness and peace” within the troubled house adding that the elections were meant to uphold these virtues.
He said there are “special interests” that are being pursued by the aggrieved faction “which are against the word of God”.
Diergaardt has endorsed Kisting describing him as an asset for the church, should he make it to the highest office.
“He has a vision for the church and he is capable to take this church to higher heights,” he said.