Travellers landing at Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) were yesterday greeted by the site of 81 members of a foreign-based church being held in detention at the airport.
Government denied the religious group entry after they sought permission to visit Namibia for their annual Baptism Convention – organised by the Johane Masowe Echishanu Apostles Church.
The Namibian Airports Company (NAC) yesterday expressed concern about the continued detention of the group at Hosea Kutako International Airport, and called on government to move them elsewhere.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of the NAC Tamer El-Kalawi yesterday told New Era that the situation paints a bad picture regarding the manner in which the airport is managed and that facilities at the airport cannot sustain the group.
“This situation is not good and we do not want the detainees to mix with travellers because it does not paint a good picture,” he said.
“We do not have sufficient facilities for the detention of such a big group. We will be happy if they are detained away from the airport.”
According to El-Kalawi: “The questions about the group’s detention should be addressed to the airline that allowed them to fly without proper documents. Our role is only to facilitate the arrivals and departures but we are not supposed to keep them there.”
During a brief telephonic interview yesterday, Home Affairs and Immigration Permanent Secretary Patrick Nandago yesterday confirmed that the group was being detained at the airport.
“I have not received feedback from my colleagues who are working on the matter,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Rundu Town Council yesterday said it earlier this month also declined a request from the Johane Masowe Echishanu Apostles-Namibia Church that wanted to use the popular Rundu Beach to conduct baptism sessions for its followers.
The religious group started arriving in Namibia on Sunday to attend their annual Baptism Convention from September 27 to October 14.
Immigration officials at Hosea Kutako International Airport detained the group because they did not have the required travel documents.
“We declined their request. We told them we cannot allow them to make use of the beach because their church is not known here and they do not have members in Rundu,” said the Rundu Town Council CEO Romanus Haironga.
Haironga also expressed concern about the mushrooming of churches in the town and the country in general.
“These churches are destroying families and in some cases it is so devastating that family members stop talking to each other because those who go to the churches claim their relatives are possessed by demons,” said Haironga.
He warned other town councils to remain vigilant and guard against new churches.
Haironga also said that there is a church currently being investigated by the Namibian Police in the region.
“We cannot allow these things to happen while we know they create problems. The people in the group hail from other countries, why can they not do these things in their country?” asked Haironga.
In a letter seen by New Era dated September 25 2015, Nandago informed the local representative of the church, Andreas Shafombabi, that their request was denied.
“The Ministry has considered your request and regrets to inform you that it cannot see its way clear in granting permission to those who wish to attend the convention from outside,” said Nandago.
Despite the group’s planned arrival in the country on Sunday, Shafombabi only wrote to Nandago last Tuesday.
The church was formed in 1931 by one Shonhiwa Masedza, popularly known as Baba Johane in Zimbabwe.