The contemporary talk of the town is whether to regulate or not to regulate. First, it happens with traditional and clan affairs. These are cultural and societal issues on the lowest level of our interaction.
Prior to independence, especially with the Constituent Assembly, some politicians thought they have pocketed traditional leaders and will balance power by attracting votes from this block. The new government zeroed in on the importance of these grassroots leaders and have extended State benefits to them.
Not only are ethnic, clan traditional authorities legislated as part of the constitutional democracy but government tries to improve their living conditions with extra benefits such as fishing and mining rights, just to cite a few.
We now witness scramble for traditional positions at all cost, whenever a vacancy occurs in such clans. These very benefits extended to improve livelihood have made traditional positions the battleground of a variety of interested parties.
People who have nowhere else to go are trampling upon each other. The confusion with regulation is whether recognition is elevated now to mean approval.
Some government officials are now shifting goalposts to suit political agenda to those in their circle of friendship. Applying for recognition is misunderstood as seeking favours for approval.
Traditional authorities are archaic institutions that we are trying to fit into modern political states and concepts. That is at the core of the confusion of regulating traditional affairs.
For the nation to be born, the clan must die and therein lies the challenge of the slogan One Namibia, One Nation. Against this background, yours truly finds the new attempt to regulate faith, churches and religious bodies as an unnecessary extra-burden on the State.
Faith deals with meta-physics: things you cannot physically sense. Central to faith is the authority out of which you derive power. Theocracy is not advanced by any means but therein lies the head of the church.
The invisible centre of power versus earthly centres of power. Matters of faith are not easy to delineate. Almost difficult, if not impossible, to place your thumb on it.
We are so many yet one; supposed to Harambee in one direction yet pulling in different directions. Except for a few churches, which may have benefited from State fiscal injections before independence, faith institutions have survived and/or flourish on their own thus far.
The central thought is that you must take responsibility for institutions you are regulating. Is the State considering sponsoring faith institutions – be it Christian, Muslim, Baha’i or even the heathens?
Will this not be an extra burden on our economy, whose stability is being shaken by the social responsibility lags of our expenditure? Which and whose rules, discipline, doctrine and ethics would form the basis of our engagement?
My view is simple: the State should not be this courageous to walk into another land mine. Faith matters are highly complex. Those suffering violations at the hands of churches and pastors abusing and misusing religious platforms, must come forward more openly and report such perpetrators to our law enforcement agencies. There are wrongs taking place all over, even in our churches but that should not be the reason our State would want to intervene in faith issues and wanting to regulate churches.
- Reverend Willem Simon Hanse is pastor of St Mark AME Church, Gibeon, and presiding elder of the Johannes Ludwig District.