Prophet Alfeus Kanambunga was a founding leader of the Oruuano Church, with Pastor Reinhard Ruzo. He was originally from Kalkfeld (Omaruru district), where he attended the catechism class and was baptized by a Herero pastor of the Rhenish Mission Church, Pastor Tjirutue.
In 1933, and again in 1938, Kanambunga felt the call of Christ to leave his home and become a prophet in Kaokoland (northwestern Erongo region). Eventually, by 1952, he settled in Kaokoland at a place called Ekoto. He was called by God to settle at the “mountain” of Ekoto, where he would be equipped for leadership (Sundermeier 1973:156). Ekoto had a mountain cliff with a perennial fountain, and a waterfall. This was the prophet’s “Jordan” with his own “Sinai” and the “Mount Gethsemane” where God could speak to him.
At Ekoto, Kanambunga built his own congregation, in an area barred from “white” missionary access, where he preached to a heathen community. His fame as a prophet started to spread simultaneously with that of prophet Mokaleng of Botswana (Sundermeier 1973:156).
Kanambunga visited Jacob Mokaleng in Botswana, who “exercised great influence over him” (Kanduvazu 1968:29). Although the time of this visit is not given, it must have been during Mokaleng’s first years of fame (1952). Some Herero people argued that Kanambunga was trained for a prophetic ministry by Mokaleng, while others maintained that Kanambunga got his prophetic gifts independently from any outside influence (for the latter argument, see Sundermeier 1973:155).
There were many parallels between prophet Kanambunga and prophet Mokaleng and many similarities in their work: like Mokaleng, Kanambunga could not read or write, and had no formal theological education (Sundermeier 1973:160). “Others read the Bible to him and he memorized portions of it, especially from the Old Testament prophets… He had the ‘gift of ‘sight’; the ability to diagnose the causes of an illness, … to interpret dreams and visions, and to foretell future events” (Friesen 1994:44).
Like Mokaleng, the main emphasis of Kanambunga’s ministry was ritual purity and healing. Pastor Ruzo visited Kanambunga for the healing of his feet (although he later also visited Mokaleng for his feet and for the blessing of the Herero flag, called Otjiserandu.)(Kandovazu 1968:29). Every Herero person had the duty to go to Kanambunga to receive healing, holy water and blessing.
In 1957, Kanambunga issued an order that no contact should be maintained with the Rhenish Mission, as they were ritually unclean (Sundermeier 1973:119-120). In January 1969, Kanambunga prophesied that Jesus Christ would appear on the Waterberg with the heathen Maharero, together with the Christian Samuel Maharero. Three transport vehicles loaded with Hereros arrived for the occasion. When Jesus did not appear, it was said that the visitors had arrived too late, that Christ with the two big ones had already departed (Sundermeier 1973:201, footnote 152).
The emphasis on clean/unclean (ritual purity) led to further disagreements and secessions from the Oruuano. Kandovazu provided a historical critique of these secessions and their theological basis.
Gerhard Buys and Shekutaamba Nambala
- This story is taken from Buys & Nambala p. 186.
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Interviews & questionnaires
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Witbooi, H. 2002. Interview of Buys with the honourable Dr. Hendrik Witbooi, in Windhoek, on the history of Evangelists Petrus Jod and Marcus Witbooi. Dr. Witbooi is the son of Pastor Marcus Witbooi, who was a founder member of the AMEC in Namibia. At the time of the interview, Dr. Witbooi was Deputy Prime Minister in the Namibian government and leader of the AMEC (African Methodist Episcopal Church) in Namibia.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from History of the Church in Namibia, an Introduction - 1805-1990, Gamsberg Macmillan, Windhoek, Namibia, copyright © November 2003 by Dr. Gerhard Buys and Dr. Shekutaamba Nambala. All rights reserved.