Bishop Dumeni continues to inspire
He wanted to fight Apartheid with a message of non-violent resistance that echoed everywhere.
05 October 2020 | People
Famous for his smile, his faith in God, his massive of reconciliation and his evangelization, Bishop Kleopas Dumeni is a worshipful and warm man.
Founding president Sam Nujoma describes this Namibian activist and Christian giant as a peace keeper who preached about their desire for Namibia's independence.
Namibian Sun caught up with him at his home on a Wednesday last week three days before his 90th birthday. He had just travelled from Ruacana– about 165 kilometres from Ongwediva – where his village house is situated.
Clad in an African print shirt I put it, to him that he will be turning 90 in three days. He jokes that he is still 89 and, God willing, he can celebrate his birthday on Saturday, 3 October.
Education and work
Dumeni is first born of seven boys and three girls. He attended early education years at Onakayale Boys School in Omusati Region. Becoming a teacher was one of the few opportunities that were available to black people at the time and he ended up working at Nakayale Primary School.
Dumeni said he was then encouraged to become a pastor - a calling he did not want and preferred to remain a school teacher. As fate had it, his life took a new course when he enrolled for theology. He was registered at the theological Seminary school at Elim and was admitted as a pastor in 1959 after three years of studies. Immediately a spark in him was ignited.
He wanted to fight Apartheid with a message of non-violent resistance that echoed everywhere: “Stability and peace in our land will not come from the barrel of a gun but Namibia will gain independence.”
He is passionate about music and in between the interview, he would throw in hymns and dance to them while I observe.
His cause gained weight from 1959-1974 when he became assistant to his mentor in 1973, bishop Leonard Auala the first black leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Owambo-Kavango (ELOK), which was renamed Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (Elcin).
His ascendancy to the rank of an assistant bishop gave him an opportunity to advance his cause. In 1984, bishop Auala, confronted the colonial authorities on various issues, such as the pass laws and the introduction of the Bantustan authorities.
Nujoma said it's fitting to reflect on the moral values Dumeni has promoted and held dear throughout his life. “It is his steadfast adherence to these values, his courage, activism and integrity that have set him apart from others in leadership in Namibia today,” the former president said.
The trademark of his inspiring leadership philosophy is the unwavering consistency with which he has rejected abuses of power - both during apartheid as well as in post-apartheid Namibia.
Consistency and authenticity
Dumeni's role as a bishop reflected his authentic desire to help innocent victims of apartheid abuse and torture, and to start the healing process. As a leader, he enunciated the role of forgiveness in healing.
He established links with the Lutheran churches in Namibia and beyond to help him call for the implementation of UN Resolution 435, which paved the way for the independence of the country.
He talks about his passion about the education of Namibians. He considered Bantu education as an education of mediocre quality and as result launched a massive campaign for the training of young people in various fields.
“The Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America responded to my call to fund the studies for the Namibian students and other international church bodies, such as the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) also offered a helping hand in this regard.
“Many of those in government positions, such as the Nangolo Mbumbas, are fruits of this course,” Dumeni said.
Celebrating a life well lived
Dumeni's fight for peace was relentless, earning him the prestigious awards. During the independence anniversary of March 1991, he was conferred by Nujoma an Award of Eagle upon him in recognition of his contribution to the liberation struggle.
He also received various honours and awards during his tenure as a leader of Elcin.
Upon bishop Auala's retirement, Dumeni succeeded him and continued challenging the colonial authorities through your speeches.
Dumeni talks about how as assistant bishop, he represented bishop Auala at international conferences where he spoke about the suffering and oppression of Namibians at the hands of the colonial regime.
“While acting as an assistant bishop, Cassinga was attacked by the white minority South African troops on the 4 May 1978.
“This barbaric attack was carried out by about 500 apartheid South African paratroopers in an operation code named Reindeer. About 800 women, children and the elderly persons were cold-bloodedly murdered by the South African white minority apartheid regime,”
In response to this attack, Dumeni wrote a pastoral letter to the parishes of ELOK calling for constant prayer for the liberation of Namibia and extended a message of condolences to ELOK members. During the same period, he also issued a statement together with the representatives of the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Baptist Church in which he condemned the white minority South African regime on Cassinga massacre.
At the end of his second term as an Assistant bishop in 1978, he was elected as the second bishop of ELOK. He became a bishop at the time when the fight for the liberation of Namibia was gaining momentum.
Nujoma applauds Dumeni for forging on even in unfavourable conditions to make sure that the country gained independence. He highlights that through the network activities known as elyenge (crucifix), Dumeni was able to channel the information to Swapo about the planned activities of the Koevoet and the South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF). The members of Elyenge were bishop Kauluma, Shapua Kaukungwa and former president Hifikepunye Pohamba.
Presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (Elcin) Shekutamba Nambala only had this to say: “Happy Birthday bishop Dumeni. Many happy returns.”
A family man
His wife, Aino Dumeni, has supported him throughout his mission and political work. “She has suffered together with me,” he said. At one occasion, she was temporarily detained with him at Ogongo Military base in North Central Namibia in 1980.
The consistency and integrity he has displayed in all facets of his life, including his relationships with his children and grandchildren, has earned him the iconic stature, respect and admiration.
It's not surprising that the faces of many Namibian light up when his name is mentioned.
A symbol of reconciliation, faith and justice, Dumeni tells Namibians: “Do your little bit of good where you are. It's those little bits of good that will keep us together during this coronavirus pandemic. Call onto the Lord through hymn number 656”. [email protected]