Poverty-fighting Lutheran bishop appointed as Namibian cabinet minister

(Photo: LWF / Heidi Martinussen)Bishop emeritus Zephania Kameeta photographed in March 2015. Photo: LWF/H. Martinussen

Namibia's new president, Hage Geingob, has appointed Bishop emeritus Zephania Kameeta, a long-time advocate of the rights of the disadvantaged and the poor, as Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare.

He was named to the Namibian cabinet March 21, on the 25th anniversary of the country gaining independence, a process seen by many at the time as a process that facilitated South Africa's release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

Kameeta is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) and also serves on the Council of The Lutheran World Federation, the main governing body of the Geneva-based body.

"We have discovered that the role of the church has not come to an end with the lowering of the South African flag," Bishop Kameeta told Lutheran World Information while preparing to celebrate 25 years of independence in Namibia.

The 69-year-old Kameeta said, "The one pressing issue is a question of poverty and the gap between rich and poor in this country.

"More than twenty years ago it was a question of black and white and a question of colonialism and apartheid. Now it is moving in the direction of classes

"We have very rich black and white people. You have very poor predominantly black people in a population of 2.2 million. We are going around telling people that this is a rich country especially, when it comes to minerals.

"But the citizens of the country are not experiencing that wealth."

Namibia has strong ties to Lutheranism and the LWF has three member churches in the country with Lutherans making up around 40 percent of the inhabitants.

In May 2017, the LWF churches in Namibia will host the largest gathering of Lutherans, the general assembly of the Lutheran World Federation an occasion on which 500 years of the Protestant Reformation will be commemorated.


When Namibia became independent of South African rule in 1990, Kameeta was elected as a lawmaker for the South West Africa People's Organization, (SWAPO) which has ruled the country from that date till the present.

He became its first Deputy Speaker. Between 2002 and 2013 Kameeta was bishop of the ELCRN.

Acclaimed for his efforts to eradicate the widespread poverty in the country, Kameeta is a strong proponent of cash distribution schemes, notably Namibia's Basic Income Grant, which is designed to reduce poverty and inequality.

The church played a significant role in opposition to apartheid in Namibia and was part of the Namibian independence struggle against South African rule.

The LWF supported refugees fleeing the country, provided hundreds of scholarships for Namibians who otherwise did not have access to higher education.

It acted as a source of information about the situation in Namibia, and helped refugees repatriate after 1990.

SWAPO's armed wing fought a 24-year war of independence against South Africa which ended with the implementation of the United Nations-brokered independence process, viewed as one of the U.N.'s most successful peace-keeping operations.

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