A FEW words of thanks to Honourable Dr. Ngarikutuke Tjiriange for his opinion in connection with the concept of “secularism” as published in your newspaper of 9 August 2012.
That also concerns your editorial of 3 August 2012, as well as the opinion of your columnist Magreth Nunuhe in your edition of 10 August 2012. It is still my conviction that if one is not enlightened or informed about the definition of a word or concept, there can be no meaningful debate. I am very thankful that Dr. Tjiriange’s explanation of the word ‘secular’ in our Constitution, somewhat differed from the American and general Western concept.
Already on the 21 November 1989 the Honourable Theo-Ben Gurirab proposed in the Constitutional Assembly and it was unanimously adopted, “that the Constituent Assembly in this sitting adopt the 1982 constitutional principles as the framework for the constitution we are going to draft.”
I was therefore very much surprised that during the drafting of the constitution, the word ‘secular’ suddenly came from nowhere. It was proposed by SWAPO without any definition, while it was never a part of the 1982 principles. I did my best to have it removed but even the D.T.A. did not recognize the consequences it may have in future. Whereas the Honourable Dr. Tjiriange now put his and I believe, the majority of the people in Namibia’s point of view on secularism, I have already tried to explain my viewpoint in 1990.
Please allow me to quote from the minutes of the meeting of the Constituent Assembly, Volume 7,p.172 and page 173, 29 January 1990. “Secondly, the word “secular” in Article I has too many meanings and can be confusing. It is not as harmless as it may seem. It can just as well be deleted. CAN, in its first point of its election manifesto, put it very clearly: “ANC accepts the supremacy and guidance of God, also as the source of all authority in the destiny of peoples, nations and states.” And interesting enough, in the “Namibian” of the 15th September 1989, there was a report under the heading,
“Moenie die mens fragmenteer nie” – Do not fragment the human being, and quite an interesting photo of Dr Sam Nujoma on top of this article, and then in Afrikaans- and I will translate it into English - it was said by a world-known minister of church from Zimbabwe, Mr Phineas Dube, while he visited Windhoek:
“Die Chirstelike geloof is nie net betrokke in die redding van siele nie, maar in die totale behoeftes van die mens,” which translates - The Christian’s religion is not limited to the salvation of souls, but concerns the total need of the human being. Another example, in the “Namibian” of January 8, 1990, under the heading, “Churchmen in the Constituent Assembly on their role in the constitutional process” four of the honourable members put their case.
You can read it yourself. During our meeting we also accepted a circular from the CCN, from Dr Abisai Shejavali: “A message to the leaders of Namibia gathered in the Constituent Assembly and to the incoming Government of Namibia.”
“Mr Chairman, one or other wise guy may in future, on the grounds of this word, ‘secular’, ask the courts to rule that the churches and the church leaders keep their noses out of state policy. That is possible. The “Namibian” of January 26, 1990, last Friday, with reference to the Honourable Nahas Angula’s policy document on education – very interesting, Mr Chairman.”
“The inclusion of four period a week of religious and moral education is in direct contradiction to the claim commonly made in the past that SWAPO is a Marxist atheist organization. This recommendation is sure to be welcomed by many, but it is also likely that there will be those who will remain skeptical about its inclusion in the syllabus. Some people will probably question whether religious education is not in conflict with the Preamble of the Constitution, which determines that Namibia will be a secular state.”
So, my fears, Mr Chairman, are not so far-fetched. State and church are separate, but religion must always play a role. The word ‘secular’ was not a provision or a condition in the 1982 principles. In the spirit of give and take it can easily be left out. Why create confusion unnecessarily? To keep the word ‘secular’ is in my opinion, to look for trouble. There is nothing wrong if the state, also in its policies, reflects the religious feeling of the majority, while respecting the freedom of religion of the minority.
An even more strange thing happened in the Constituent Assembly on 16 February 1990. The Reverend Jesse Jackson was allowed to address the Constituent Assembly. Probably believing that about 80 percent of the inhabitants of Namibia were supposed to be Christians he inter alia said the following.
Page 134 “Unimpressed with the multi-party formation, the people were civilized enough to agree to agree and to agree to disagree, and yet above all protect God and country.”