By Adv Nadene Badenhorst, FOR SA Legal Counsel

At a media briefing by the CRL Rights Commission (CRL) on Friday, 30 November, it was announced that a national summit of all religious and church leaders will be held on 13 February 2019.

According to a Statement read out by pastor Ray McCauley, who (in his capacity as Chair of the National Religious Leaders Council (NRLC)) has been appointed by the CRL to drive the process, “the Commission has given the religious sector the task to chart the way forward with their help”. The plan is to have a Summit that will be “inclusive of every religious organisation” and will focus on the following six streams:

  1. Legal / Constitutional Framework
  2. Developing Code of Conduct
  3. Developing an accountability system to society and ourselves
  4. Developing healthy relationship with the CRL
  5. Developing core values for our multi-faith society
  6. Creating a working partnership with Parliament, Department of Home Affairs, SAPS and SARS.

According to pastor McCauley’s Statement, the purpose of the Summit is to “on that day, … adopt a document that speaks to the aforementioned streams and we will obviously ask Parliament to assist us with any necessary legislative aspects of these considerations”.

The Statement also explained that a Task Team headed by Bishop Moso Sono of Grace Bible Church has been formed, and that the responsibility of the Task Team is the planning of, and extending the invitations to, the Summit. The Task Team, who will be supported by a team of experts, will also be responsible for finalising the document that will be adopted at the summit.

At the briefing, a statement by the Chairperson of the COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee (who was not present) was also read out, extending its “full support to the process … As a committee, we applaud the fact that the religious leaders themselves are taking the leadership role in ensuring that there is order within this sector.”

The briefing was attended by approx. 20 religious leaders who were invited to the occasion, including representatives of the SACC, SAUCIC, ZCC, Shembe Church, NICSA, TEASA and FOR SA (who was not invited, but found out about the briefing via social media the day before).

FOR SA’s comments on the Summit:

FOR SA has always called for, and supported, a broadly representative and inclusive process whereby the religious community can discuss solutions by the religious community for the religious community.

We are concerned however that the process up and until this stage (including the determination of the proposed date and agenda for the Summit) has not been broadly representative or inclusive. We are particularly concerned that the vast majority of church leaders who participated in the two days’ hearings that took place before COGTA in October 2017 (and who were opposed to the CRL’s proposed recommendations) have not been included in the process.

In the circumstances, FOR SA – along with the majority of denominations, churches and religious organisations who appeared before COGTA – have written to COGTA on 7 December 2018, to place our concerns on record, particularly also with regard to the short time frame leading up to the proposed Summit in February 2019.

FOR SA has also subsequently met with pastor Giet Khosa, representing pastor Ray McCauley, to discuss the religious community’s concerns and in particular, the perceived need to postpone the Summit to a later date with a view to ensuring that the process, and indeed the Summit, are broadly representative and inclusive – particularly of the organisations who have been committed to the process from the beginning.  We believe that it is imperative that the Church stands united on the issue and the proposed solutions – a house divided against itself will not stand. (Mark 3:25). If we do not work together, and it seems as if we are not united, government may well take this matter out of our hands and decide / legislate it for us. It is therefore essential that, as the Church and for the sake of the Church in South Africa, we do try find solutions together.

FOR SA will continue to engage with relevant stakeholders, and to monitor developments in this regard.

Nadene is an Advocate, and practised as a member of the Cape Bar for a number of years. She holds both a BA LLB degree from the University of Stellenbosch and a LLM degree in International Human Rights Law (cum laude) from the University of Essex. She currently serves as a Next Generation Board Member on the Advocates Africa Board, representing Southern Africa.

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