account A body that forces churches to
This is to protect the rights of those who are exploited in the name of religion and tradition
THE Joburg mayor, Herman Mashaba, has been calling for closure of the countless churches in the inner city and suburbs. The mayor said some churches are worse than taverns. The issue of religious, unholy practices and gross dealings within churches is of great concern. Far too many South Africans are crying foul at how many churches have become detrimental to the lives of believers. The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) is one organisation that is fighting tooth and nail to protect the constitutional rights of those who suffer all in the name of religion.
WHY THE BODY WAS FORMED
Last year, was quite a busy year for the CRL Rights Commission, it found itself having to stand in the gap to defend the Constitutional Rights of ordinary citizens. The chairperson of the commission, Thoko Mkhwanazi Xaluva, says the body is a constitutional institution established to protect and promote the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities. The CRL Rights Commission must:
Promote and develop peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance and national unity among cultural, religious and linguistic communities, on the basis of equality, non-discrimination and free association. ■Promote respect for and further the protection of the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities. ■To recommend the establishment or recognition of community councils in accordance with national legislation of cultural or other councils for communities in South Africa.
IN THE NAME OF THE CHURCH
Horror revelations in churches called for the CRL Rights Commission to step in. One of the churches that shocked South Africa was the Seven Angels Church in eNgcobo, Eastern Cape. After a brutal shooting at the eNgcobo police station that left several police officers dead, seven members of a gang believed to have carried out this brutality were shot and killed by the police at the church. Police tracked down the suspects, killed seven and arrested ten of them. Three of the deceased were brothers linked to the leaders of the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministry.
SOME CHURCHES ARE WORSE THAN TARVENS
It later emerged that the church leaders – all brothers – believed that they are angels sent to earth by God. Over 100 girls and women, said to have been sex slaves, were rescued during a police raid at the church. Some of the girls were as young as 12 years old.
The priest of the church appeared in court on charges of rape and sexual exploitation. The church was dubbed a cult. Allegations of several sexual violations against various pastors are some of the things the commission had to confront in recent times.
“I continuously suffer verbal abuse from some of the religious leaders. The CRL Rights Commission, under my leadership, has been pushing for the religious sector to be regulated so that the congregants can be protected from financial, spiritual, emotional and sexual abuse,” Thoko says. Chilling testimonies of Nigerian Pastor - Timothy Omotoso, where young girls were allegedly lured to his house and made to perform sexual acts on him surfaced. One of the young girls who testified against Pastor Timothy said he made her and the other girls believe that he had a close connection to God and, therefore, they did what the pastor asked because they felt that they were obeying what God wanted them to do.
In 2017, Pastor Paseka Motsoeneng, better known as Pastor Mboro, claimed to have taken selfies in heaven and was selling those photos for R5 000. Some believers believed him. “My main concern is the level of desperation in people’s lives that makes people so vulnerable. The issue of unemployment, poverty and inequality causes people to be vulnerable and gullible,” Thoko says.
While CRL Rights Commission may fight tirelessly for citizens to be treated in a just way, it can’t make them change their beliefs.
“The greatest challenge has been to try and stop the abuse of people’s belief systems and the commercialisation of religion and cultural spaces. This includes stopping adverts in newspapers about fake traditional healers who make promises of their powers to heal and falsely promising people to get rich,” she says.
“This has also included abusing cultural practices, for instance, ukuthwala (bride abduction) which has been abused by people who abuse girls and young women.” Thoko will be finishing her term at the CRL Rights Commission soon but will not give up on promoting these values she has been advocating for over the years as part of the commission.
“I will be giving my time and energy to continue working and highlighting the abuse of people in sacred spaces and the violations that take place there,” she says.
BRINGING ABOUT CHANGES
The CRL Rights Commission says they would like to see major policy changes that will make their mandate a lot easier to fulfil. “I would like to see the regulation of religious and traditional healing sectors in the country that will allow for a peer review mechanism in both sectors in order to drastically reduce or totally eliminate the abuse in these sectors,” she says.
“We are confident that with the current position taken by the religious sector in supporting our proposals we will get full cooperation from both Parliament and government,” she adds.
Prophe tP aseka ‘Mboro ’M otsoeneng hande dhi mself over to th epo lice on 21 September 2017, after the commission opened two cases against him