By William J. Mbangula
A pastor from the Christian Fellowship Church at Oshakati was ordered to release by last Friday a number of children that he had taken under his care without their parents’ consent.
However, despite the deadline of Friday, there were still children at the pastor’s house on Sunday.
The pastor had been reprimanded by the police and warned to stop harbouring minor children without the consent of their legal guardians. It is alleged the pastor houses children under the pretext that he is providing them with spiritual care. But last Friday Pastor Gebhard Kgobetsi, 25, was summoned to a meeting in the office of Oshana police commander Deputy Commissioner Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa, and was told in the presence of aggrieved parents, the media, social workers, officials from the Women and Child Protection Unit, and Reverend Joseph Avia of Elcin Church that what he was doing was in contravention of the constitution of Namibia.
The police’s immediate intervention was prompted by complaints from concerned parents in and around the towns of Ongwediva, Oshakati, Ondangwa and Eenhana that their children had deserted their homes and even schools to be housed at Kgobetsi residence No. 4101 at Ongwediva, where they are said to have become born-again Christians.
Most of the children are aged between 13 and 18 years. The majority of them are girls. Said the police commander: “I wish to put it on record that what you are doing in the name of your church is illegal, no matter whether the children came there voluntarily or not. In terms of the constitution of the Republic of Namibia, no one should keep a minor in her or his house without the prior consent of the parents or approval from legal institutions of the country.
“I have nothing against you or your church but what I can tell you is that you have no power or right to accept and accommodate kids under 18 in your place, against the laws of the land. You are therefore urged to use the same influence which brought the children to your house to again send them back where they came from.”
Kashihakumwa instructed the youthful pastor to release the children by 16h00 on Friday, August 2,failure of which he would be compelled to enforce the law without reservation.
He added that after 16h00, the police would conduct an inspection to satisfy themselves that he had complied with their order.
Some of the concerned parents who attended the meeting were Abner Gaa Silas, Diina Hilundwa and Elago Festus. In an interview with New Era, Silas expressed shock and disappointment with the activities of Kgobetsi, accusing him of misleading children into becoming ill-disciplined, the result of which would be poor performance at school.
He said: “My child is in Grade 10 now, her mother has passed away and I have worked hard to bring her up but now, she does not want to listen to me because of the bad influence she has received from Kgobetsi’s church.”
Pastor Kgobetsi, whose original spiritual home was the Catholic Church, was accompanied by his assistant, Nelson Haihambo, 19, (formerly of Elcin Church), a Grade 12 learner. He denied that his house was turned into a hub of sexual immorality but rather that he was only providing spiritual counselling to children.
The church has been operating for six months at a former drinking outlet called Tafel Haus without the knowledge of the Oshakati Town Council.
Kgobetsi, who appeared to be well composed and a highly learned person after completing two years of theological training in Britain, told the gathering that he was not aware of the constitutional provision prohibiting under aged children to be accommodated without the consent of their parents.
He said: “I thought I was just providing humanitarian service to the people who need assistance and that is all I did. Since I have been advised to release them, I will make sure that they leave my house.”
Meanwhile, the crime coordinator in Oshana Region, Chief Inspector Golden Naanda, said that on Sunday some of the children were still staying at the house of the pastor and that this would force the police to take steps against Kgobetsi.