The CRL Rights Commission on Monday said it would approach the highest court in the country for a declaratory order to determine whether religious regulation was within Parliament’s constitutional mandate, following the Ngcobo massacre last week.
This comes after Parliament released a statement condemning comments by the chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told City Press on Saturday that Parliament should answer for the Ngcobo shootings.
On Wednesday, unknown attackers entered the Ngcobo police station, between Mthatha and Queenstown. Five policemen and a retired soldier were killed.
On Friday, seven suspects were shot dead and 10 others were arrested at the Seven Angels Ministry church after a shootout with police. Three Mancoba brothers, who were church leaders, were among those killed.
“We are living with this nightmare. We should not be waiting for [spurious religious leaders] to do something crazy. We are leaving this in the hands of Parliament. It must pass legislation. We are dealing with people who are a hundred times more dangerous,” Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told City Press.
“No one listened to us. This could have been avoided. We told them we cannot have a sector that is not regulated.”
The CRL Rights Commission had last year proposed that an extensive national structure to license (and thereby control) every ‘religious practitioner’ and ‘place of worship’ be established.
Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo replied that Mkhwanazi-Xaluva’s comments, which called for religious regulation, “demonstrated poor understanding of the constitutional mandate of Parliament and its relations with the commission”.
In response, Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said that it was “unfortunate” that Parliament had “chosen this slant”.
“They are doubting the constitutionality of religious regulation so we will go to the Constitutional Court to obtain a declaratory order,” said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.
“This is not about the church, this is about individuals, and the court will determine whether regulation is within the constitutional framework.”
Mothapo said that the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Portfolio Committee, along with religious and cultural sectors, concluded that the “constitutional provisions of freedom of religion and that the state cannot prescribe when it comes to people’s beliefs and religious convictions”.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said she had interviewed the church leaders in 2016 during her investigation into church practices and made the parliamentary committee aware of her concerns.
“We raised an issue of urgency specifically related to the Seven Angels in June last year, Parliament only dealt with our recommendations last week,” Mkhwanazi Xaluva told News24.
“If you don’t move with speed, there will be death. They were sitting on a ticking time-bomb.”
‘CRL has never issued such an instruction’
The CRL Rights Commission has also been slammed by the Eastern Cape MEC for Social Development, Nancy Sihlwayi.
The department rescued 18 girls from the Seven Angels Ministry two years earlier.
Sihlwayi told SABC that the CRL Rights Commission “blocked” her department from investigating the state of affairs at the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministry.
“We were barred to continue with that, to date we have not received any response from the commission,” said Sihlwayi.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva denied the allegations and said that Sihlwayi was “not telling the truth”.
“She told me that she was called by someone from the CRL two years ago, but she cannot give me that person’s name,” said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.
“How can you just follow instructions from someone over the phone? CRL has never issued such an instruction, as such an instruction would be unconstitutional.” — News 24