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President Dr Hage Geingob's meeting with the faith based organizations leaders

I wish you a warm welcome to State House, for this very important and blessed occasion. This meeting presents a significant opportunity for dialogue between the religious leaders and the State, and we all pray that God, through his abundant grace and love for mankind, will bless our thoughts and ideas, so that we are able to derive the necessary wisdom from this gathering, the wisdom that we can disperse amongst all, for the benefit of all. Jeremiah 29:11 reads as follows, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." As we are gathered here today, we have embarked on a plan that will take us towards prosperity.

A plan that will bring hope to our people and give them a future. The words of Jeremiah give us the encouragement that our plans will be blessed by God because it is his will to see His people prosper.

Our Government has always shared a cordial relationship with the Church, and with religious leaders of various denominations. At the heart of this relationship has been the love of God, the respect for human dignity and the struggle to end human suffering. This relationship was forged during the time of the struggle for Independence, when the Church, guided by the moral compass provided by God, acted in defence of the ordinary people, by actively resisting the violence and hatred of the times. We always listened to our religious leaders then and sought guidance and solace from them, and today, we seek to continue that important relationship, as we struggle for economic emancipation.

It is against this background that I have invited all of you here today, in the spirit of Harambee, in the spirit conveyed by Psalm 133:1 which says, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!" When I declared all-out war on poverty during my inauguration speech last year, I mentioned the fact that our focal point is to address inequality, poverty hunger and all-out fight against corruption, we will have to look at a range of choices of how to go about tackling these issues.

One of the first actions we took in this regard, was to increase the Old Age pension. Second was to create the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, led by none other than one of your own, a man of faith, Bishop Zephania Kameeta. It was our understanding that a man of the cloth, would possess the compassion and moral fiber needed to empathize with our nation's poor and understand their concerns as well as identify their needs. We also embarked on a goal to formulate a comprehensive all-encompassing plan that would speak to, and support the National Development Plans and Vision 2030. This plan, termed the Harambee Prosperity Plan, will be our blueprint to fast-track our drive towards prosperity and the eradication of poverty.

It is my intention to share this plan with you this morning, in order to solicit your opinion and exchange ideas with you on how best Government and the institutions of faith can collaborate, in order to ensure that the targets set out in the plan are achieved.

Before I conclude, I would like to mention three issues that emanated from the Town Hall meetings and subsequent consultations, which are of concern to the Church as well as the Government. These are: shebeens, the mushrooming of churches and the issue of church property. Government has taken note of these concerns and is ready to take action. On the issue of shebeens, we will be targeting those establishments that are situated near schools or playgrounds were children are at risk of suffering the negative consequences of alcohol abuse. The licenses of these shebeens shall not be renewed after expiry, forcing shebeen owners to situate their establishments in areas where children don't assemble or not in residential areas.

On the mushrooming of churches, we would appreciate guidance from the Council of Churches and other religious leaders on how best to tackle this issue which is of concern because some of these churches could be fronts for organized crime and other dubious practices. However, given the freedoms offered by our Constitution, we need to find an appropriate and legal manner to deal with the ever growing number of churches nationwide.

Finally, when it comes to church property, Government supports the view that the Churches should have decent property, given the significant role that they play in our society, most notably in nation building and maintenance of peace. However, we should also bear in mind that given the demand for land, it will not be appropriate for churches to own a large amount of land, for example three farms. Dear Bishops and church leaders, be assured that where church land has been taken, we will ensure that it is returned. So we have definitely noted your concerns and are seeking solutions in consultation with you.

I therefore once again offer you my most sincere welcome, and look forward to engaging, all our religious denominations in order to plan the road ahead towards prosperity for all.

I thank you.


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura