OMUKWETU MAGAZINE THE MOUTHPIECE OF THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN NAMIBIA
When the first Finnish missionaries of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland arrived in Ondonga, Ovamboland in July 1870, initially settled down at Omandongo and than at Olukonda permanently, but Oniipa has became their main Centre of their activities. After toiling for 13 years, the first six converts were baptized in 1883. Those 6 gentlemen formed the nucleus of what is known today as The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), formerly ELOC, i.e. The Evangelical Lutheran Ovambo-Kavango Church.
As early as in October 1901 they have established the small press at Oniipa. The first printed paper being published was a newsletter called Osoondaha, means Sunday. The name derived from the day in which it was being given freely to not more than 200 converters after Sunday services. This four pages newsletter was the only ever being published in then South West Africa. Although The Rhenish Mission Society was the first to own its Printing press since 1855, it has never published any newspaper.
The aim for needed such a newsletter was multi-purposes:
- a) To provide for the community a written words in their own vernacular languages;
- b) To provide and promoting the reading materials for the converters and especial to motivate them for the culture of reading even writing. A Christian named Albin Itope from the Ndonga royal family, is marked as to have been first indigenous to write an article to this newsletter on the theme: “Aantu oji ili = People are differ”. It was appeared in number 20 of 1902.
- c) To attract the attention for the new readers with news from around their environment in parishes, other parts of the country and beyond concerning the social, economical and political matters, and above all;
- d) To bring them about for the good news through their newspaper.
For the nature under which the newspaper had gone through, its developments can be highlighted in three phases:
Phase 1: from 1901 – 1935.
It’s impossible for one to describe this Newsletter without mentioning the printing press, as these two has been and is today almost one and the same thing. During this period the newspaper was to be the first proof to see whether the machine in use was suitable for scheduled bulk of works for the newly mission field. So far, all their publications books were just made in Finland.
Things didn’t go smoothly. During the course, Osoondaha has stopped almost five times with the reasons ranged from lack of finances, lightening destructions, need of workers as some missionaries had done it voluntarily and or to political unrest in the country and beyond.
- In 1904 – 1907, Osoondaha ceased to come out because of the conflict between Hereros and Germany and the editors’ leave on furlough.
- From May 1912 to February 1913, no publication was issued. No reason was given probably because of the Editor Suoma Terho’s absence that was on furlough until May 14 1914.
- In 1915 only 12 or 14 issues was published when the press relocated to Ontananga.
- Then follow a lapse for four years; 1917 – 1920.
On his return from holiday in Finland on 1920, Rev. Oskari Tylväs (Grönlund) made it possible to publish eight issues. It seems as if no more any publication was done since then until the second destruction by lightening happened on January 5, 1924 at Elim. The first printing machine which operated since 1901 was total destroyed.
March 15, 1926, the newspaper hit again the street and the work shifted back at Oniipa. Many Christians were applauded and congratulated. New and better printing machine has been acquired and installed.
About 13 copies was being published that year in which the last article of the Field Mission Director Rev. Martti Rautanen (Nakambale) was appeared under the theme: Ejisano ljOmuwa = The Lord’s calling: Although he had been the one of the committed writers to this paper, he didn’t do it any more until his death in that year
At this time Bishop Leonard Auala, employed in the Printing Press before he was even qualified for teaching. Soon he has been appointed to be a member of Newsletter Committee and again as Chief Editor when he takes over the ELOC leadership in 1963.
In 1927, number of issues has jumped from 12 to 18. Unfortunately this sighing moment doesn’t last longer, the following year; the number issues dropped again to 12 and have become a monthly newsletter rather than fortnightly instead.
In 1929, 1400 copies was being published, 1600 copies in 1930 and 2000 copies in 1931. At Pentecost festival 3200 copies were being published. Number of writers from the community, has increased even for the readers as well. In 1932 there were 2200 subscribers.
As missionaries endeavored to attract many readers for the Newsletter so was equal too to get many publications books for schools and parishes. Thus ELOC Printing Press is still remaining the main source of public school books, Church books and commercial books.
Phase ll from 1935-1965
From 1933 to 1935 the newsletter didn’t appears in public. Lack of finances and the absence of its editor, Ms.S. Terho for holiday was the reason.
September 1936, was the resurrection again of the paper after almost three years of lapse. By this time the name Osoondaha changed to Omukwetu means friend or relative. The number of Christians has growing to more than 25 600 of which 420 of them have the standard of teacher qualification.
- In 1950, modern printing machine (The Model Printing Press) was given to ELOC by the business Christians in Finland.
- An additional small newsletter was launched with the name Ehangano means Unity, aimed for the improving of an indigenous church workers skills.
- In 1957, major renovation regarding the printing machine has taken place, when electric was installed for the first time. So far all machineries were only handed operated.
Phase lll from 1966- 1990
This period is very-very important for the autonomous developments of the ELOC Church and of cause the difficulty one.
- The first indigenous Bishop Leonard Auala was consecrated in 1963; He also had become the first African Chief Editor of the paper. Since then all his successors filled that post until 1990 when the post was shifted to the office of Omukwetu.
- Mr. Leonard Shemuvalula, a teacher by profession is taken up as the first African editor for Omukwetu in 1966;
- Mr.Moses Amkongo, a teacher by profession was also installed as the first African Printing Press Director in 1964;
The years 1960’s characterized by the enlightenment of the spirit of African nationalism including Namibia, to have taking irreversible step that led to attained independent whereby Omukwetu has played a significant role to be an informer and valuable source of encouragement to the majority of the community, particularly in the so-called war zone, where the church was fully operational.
Omukwetu was almost the only newspaper in Namibia to report positively about the visit of the UN Secretary General, Dr. Kurt Waldheim on February 7,1972, at Ondangwa Airport, the ever first UN envoy to touch the Namibian soil and ensuing discussions on the question of SWA freedom and independence.
Reports through this paper such as: How the Church spoke against the flogging of local politicians with makalani palm tree sticks by the local Traditional Authorities leaders on August 8, 1973;
© Or deporting of expatriates Church leaders like Bishop Colin O’ Winter of Damaraland and many many others of the other denominations;
© Or protest against enacting the draconic laws such as R17/72, AG 9/78, AG 26/78, or AG 50/78 or other Government activities among the population it might that have ignited impatience of Owambo Homeland Administration towards ELCIN Church, that the minister of Owambo administration, pastor C. Ndjoba would come fervently to presented their grievances to the editor of “OMUKWETU” regarding its writings.
His visitation was closely followed by the Special Branch of police who visited the office “OMUKWETU” and the Printing Press as a whole, under the pretext supposedly of seeing how the work is progressing.
Those gentlemen also paid a visit to the Office of the Bishop who was the Chief Editor of the “OMUKWETU” newspaper, where they gave an order for OMUKWETU to be closed, for it has something to do with political affairs.
On May 9, 1973, the OMUKWETU newspaper’s writings were harshly condemned in the Parliamentary session of the Owambo Administration or Government.
In the early morning hours on May 11, 1973, the whole Printing Press along with the Book Store was completely gutted down by fire in a bomb blast by unknown person or persons. Almost everything inside was burned to ashes, including the whole content of the Book Store, i.e. church and school books. The loss was estimated to be around R600 000,00 counted on the basis of the monetary values of the days.
Despite of what happening to the Church in general and to the Printing Press in particular, the spirit was still high of yearning for the justice seen happen in our community. Not inside only but from peace loving friends outside as well. Omukwetu didn’t stop to come in hands of its readers, even if in the form of duplications.
Within two years on May 1st, 1975, the doors of the new establishment have opened once again for the serving of the nation at the cost of plus minus R136,000.
- It seems as if South African Government declared war against Churches, by the fact that on 28 November 1978, a second attack has been launched again to the newly machines that cause somewhat damage. Fortunately the offices this time were survived.
- On 23rd of August 1982, another attack was unsuccessful made that their device has failed to exploded the way that left the security police with no choice but to admit their barbaric act. Omukwetu was the only first newspaper in the area to arrive at the battle field at Ondeshiihaluka, on the second April 1989, where our beloved freedom fighters gave their lives by pitifully manner, when they unscrupulously ambushed by the South African Forces.
The following church workers served Omukwetu news magazine in the capacity of either as chief editors or merely editors or both including Africans:
Mr. Albin Savola the architect, designer and implementer of the project from 1901-1903,1907-1919
Ms. Suoma Terho 1913,1915-1932
Rev. Valde Kivinen 1937-1938 as Church leader at the same time
Rev. Erkki Lehto 1939-1945 as Church leader at the same time
Ms. Sävi Vilkuna 1946-1948
Ms. Liina Lindström 1948-1953
Ms. Sävi Vilkuna 1953-1954
Rev. Elias Pentti 1955- 1959
Rev. Seppo Löytty 1960
Ms. Anna-Liisa Sorsa 1958-1960
Rev. Rev. Alpo Hukka 1961-1963 as Church leader at the same time
Ms. Laina Kivêla 1961-1965
Mr. Leonard Shemuvalula 1966-1968
Rev. Sebulon Ekandjo 1969-1976, 1979,
Mr. Ambrosius Amutenya 1977-1978
Rev. Matti I. Amadhila 1980-1981
Rev. Sebulon Ekandjo 1982-1999
Rev. Setson Shivute 2000-2010
Rev. Tomas Uushona July 2010 – present