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ELCRN dragged to court over bishop elections

2019-03-28  Roland Routh

ELCRN dragged to court over bishop elections

WINDHOEK - Two ordinary members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Namibia (ELCRN) want the proposed list of candidate bishops that are to be elected as leaders of the church declared null and void by the Windhoek High Court.

In an urgent application heard on Tuesday by Deputy Judge President Hosea Angula, Welfried Leyden !Naibab and Seth !Gaeb are asking the court to make a final order to declare the list of candidates compiled by the church’s electoral commission on November 13 last year and the nominations of bishops candidate at parish level conducted on February 24 this year null and void. 

They are also asking the court to declare that Paul Kisting, Johannes de Klerk, Andreas !Nowaseb, Petrus Khariseb and Simon Tiboth do not qualify for and are ineligible for nominations and election to the office of the bishop. The church is opposing the application. 

!Naibab and !Gaeb also want the court to, in the event that the electoral commission has proceeded to conduct the verification and finalisation of the bishops candidate’s list before the application is heard to declare such verification and finalisation null and void. 

They further asked the court to direct the electoral commission to meet, compile and release a new list of candidates for bishop elections, to conduct nomination of bishop candidates at parish level verification and finalisation of the bishops candidate list and release a final list of three candidates for election of bishop by no later than April 14 this year. 
They also asked for the cost of the application on the scale of attorney and own client. 

They were represented by Okahandja-based lawyer Ileni Gebhardt. The application has brought to question the eligibility of the nominated candidates to stand for election as bishops. 

According to the applicants, the constitution of the church prescribes that candidates for the position of bishops should be between the ages of 45 and 60. It is thus common cause, they said, that once one reached the age of 60 they would no longer be eligible for election as bishop. 

In the case of Kisting, they stated, reached the age of 60 in December 2017, which rules him out for election as bishop. The same with !Nowaseb who turned 60 in December 2018, the applicants stated. 
“The constitution does not allow for the age of 60 and a few months. It is clearly stated that 60 is the cut-off age,” they said.

Advocate Tuhafeni Muhongo, who appeared on behalf of the church on instructions from Appolus Shimakaleni, argued that the applicants lacked locus standi as they do not speak on behalf of the entire membership of the church. 
He further said the supposed interest the applicants have in the election of bishops was a very remote one as they were not candidates nor were they part of the selection process. 

He further argued that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter, as it is ecumenical or ecclesiastical in nature. He further said that the applicants have no locus standi as they are complaining on behalf of supposed and unidentified pastors that are not part of the proceedings. 

He further said the applicants failed to make out a case and have failed at the first hurdle which was to show their direct interest in the matter. He asked the court to dismiss the matter with costs on the scale of one instructing and one instructed counsel. Judge Angula reserved his judgment until April 15.

2019-03-28  Roland Routh

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