Reverend Bartholomeus Gerhardt Karuaera: The Legendary Church Leader, Petitioner and Freedom Fighter (1920 – 2013)

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Reverend Bartholomeus Gerhardt Karuaera.

By Mashuna Timoteus

 

DESPITE committing his life to the provision of religious sermons to members of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Namibia, Bartholomeus Karuaera’s contribution to the socio- economic and political welfare of the Namibian society was not only through church service.

He also took a leading role in the fight against the South African colonial apartheid regime. It is within this context that when Reverend Simon Hanse compiled Karuaera’s tribute, he concluded that Karuaera was “a brave fighter for freedom, independence and justice.”

Karuaera was born on the 21st of January 1920 in the southern part of Namibia. He received his childhood education at Rietquelle in Aminuis. Unlike many young males of his generation who opted to join the contract labour system, he pursued his education till he qualified as a teacher.

He taught at Omatjete and later on moved to South Africa to study theology.

As a black member of the Rhenish Missionary Church, he did not keep aloof of Rhenish Missionary Church politics of the 1930s and 1940s.

It was a time when many black followers of the Rhenish Missionary Church began to question the church leadership over the exclusion of blacks in the leadership of the missionary society and began to demand the upliftment of the socio-economic conditions of the black people.

Karuaera was among the blacks spearheading this campaign. It is with reference to this that Reverend Willem Hanse wrote, “Given his education and training, it became impossible for the late Karuaera to be associated with the Rhenish Missionary Society schools known for availing only limited knowledge restricted to only basic arithmetic.  Together with the late Zacheus Thomas, Markus Witbooi and Petrus A. Jod, the late Karuaera is lengendary in AME folklore for their particular suspicion of Pastor H. Vedder, who later turned out to be ambitious of a political position in the South African Senate.”

Even more accurate is that Hanse wrote that following the discontentment of black followers of the Rhenish Missionary Church which resulted in the formation of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church it was the legendary Karuaera who played a “pivotal role in the establishment of the AME Church and the Oruuano Church in 1946 and 1948 respectively.”

In 1959 when the South African administration decided to forcefully relocate blacks from the Old Location to Katutura, this also meant that the AME Church in the Old Location was to be moved to Katutura.

Karuaera also took part in the protest against the forceful removal from the Old Location.

It is perhaps with such harsh encounters with the colonial authorities that he grew up to become a source of agitation against the South African colonial administration.

In 1968 when the South African administration announced the findings of the 1962 Commission of Enquiry which came to be known as the Odendaal Plan, a plan aiming at the establishment of separate territories and separate development for each ethnic group in Namibia, Karuaera was one of the few sons of this soil who refused the idea of separate ethnic development.

“Karuaera had travelled widely and used many international platforms afforded by the AME Church to reject the Odendaal Plan of 1968,” writes Reverend Hanse. He also wrote several petitions to the United Nations and the Organization of the African Unity in which he opposed colonial initiatives of the South African administration. In 1974, he joined Swapo.

And this, coupled with many other factors, brought him to the attention of the colonial authorities such that in 1979 he was detained under the notorious Anti-terrorism Act of 1978.

Besides fighting against the unjust colonial system of the apartheid administration, Karuaera also served as a founder member of the Council of Churches of Namibia, Secretary of the Association for the Preservation of the Tjamuaha/Maharero Royal House and a founder member of the African Improvement Society.

He died on the 23rd of September 2013.

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