Illegal Marriages to Be Nullified

SOME of the marriages conducted by 14 pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN), whose status as marriage officers was revoked last November, will be annulled.

Their status was revoked after the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration was requested by the church following allegations that the pastors were no longer active in church affairs and that they were solomnising marriages of convenience between foreigners and Namibians.

Home affairs permanent secretary Patrick Nandago said they are investigating the marriages and corrective measures will be taken.

The Namibian last week reported that pastors Paul Goagoseb, Gotthard Gurirab, Collin and Cereline Cloete, Andreas Vilander, Willem Pieters, Mark Beukes, Salomon April, Johannes Boois, Eliakem Boois, Nokokure Gaomas, Gustav Rooi, Jafet Gaomab and Albertus Dietrich Nouseb had been stripped of their marriage licences.

Acting general secretary of ELCRN Wilfred Diergaardt said the cancellation of the pastors’ licences was not a witch-hunt but a decision by the church to rid of pastors who were already inactive.

According to Diergaardt, the affected pastors cannot work for other institutions and still want to be part of the church leadership too.

A prominent official in the home affairs ministry, who did not want to be identified, said more than 10 illegal marriages were conducted by some of these pastors, and once the investigations are concluded, these marriages could be annulled.

“If we find in our investigations that these marriages were for the purpose of obtaining Namibian citizenship or other illegal purposes, we will declare them invalid,” said the source, adding that it was difficult to pick up the guilty parties since information is gathered manually.

If found guilty, the pastors will be banned from conducting marriages and other pastoral work but they cannot be charged and prosecuted for breaking a law.

“We never thought we could have pastors who conduct marriages dishonestly and in bad faith and thus the Constitution does not specify what could be done with them,” said source.

After the ministry’s cancellation of the licences, several pastors claimed that they did not have the licences to be terminated in the first place and accused the church of witch-hunting.

ELCRN’s Bishop Ernest Gamxamub refrained from commenting referring all questions to Diergaardt, who pointed out that unholy marriages conducted in suspicious manner will be annulled.

Diergaardt said should the ministry find theses pastors guilty, the matter becomes the ministry’s responsibility.

“Their services were terminated and they are no longer part of the church’s service. That’s all we can do,” said Diergaardt.

Pastor Jafet Gaomab said in a letter to The Namibian that he was one of the pastors who did not have a licence in the first place and accused the church of witch hunting.

“If the acting general secretary did his homework, he would have found that I did not have a license and I have never solemnised marriages for foreigners,” Gaomab.

He further claimed that by mentioning him while he is not involved in the matter strengthens the claims of witch hunting.

“If I was involved in this irregular marriage thing, why not institute a disciplinary hearing against me and after finding me guilty, take me to home affairs and have my licence revoked?” said Gaomab, adding that this reflects a high level of incompetence.

Gurirab and April said the church’s failure to communicate to them directly should be viewed as being deceitful.

“Pastoral calling is not a profession or a job but a holy calling, therefore pastor Diergaardt has missed the point of pastoral duty. Claiming that pastors who work elsewhere cannot work for the church should be regarded as selective amnesia,” said Gurirab and April in a joint letter to The Namibian.

A member of the church has, however, come to the defence of ELCRN over the way they treated the pastors.

“The accusation that the church misinformed the ministry by providing the names of some pastors who never had a marriage licence is the cheapest shot I ever had to deal with, because some of them solemnised marriages by forging signatures of other pastors.”

The member described the pastors’ conduct as forgery and therefore a crime.

A source in the ministry revealed that before the cancellation of the licences, the ministry already knew that three of the pastors on the list did not have marriage licenses.

“We discovered that three of the pastors mentioned in the letter did not have licenses although they had applied for them,” said the source.

Source : The Namibian