Parliament has opened the General Laws (Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing) Amendment Bill (the “Anti-Money Laundering Bill”) for public comment. FOR SA is very concerned about the scope, impact and unintended consequences of this Bill.
*NOTE: The deadline for public comment on the Bill has been extended until 16h00 on Tuesday, 25 October 2022. (The initial deadline for comment on the Bill was noon on Monday, 10 October 2022.) Parliament agreed to extend the period for comment after the public hearings which took place on Tuesday, 11 October 2022.
FOR SA strongly encourages every religious organisation to submit comments on this Bill. Religious leaders and organisations are free to use the attached template submission for religious organisations. They are welcome to use this template “as is” or to change and share it as they deem fit.
Concern 1 – Compulsory Registration:
Many religious organisations fall within the NPO Act’s definition of what an NPO is, namely any “trust, company or other association of persons established for a public purpose; and the income and property of which are not distributable to its members or office-bearers except as reasonable compensation for services rendered”. However, until now, registration as an NPO under the NPO Act with the Department of Social Development has been voluntary. In terms of this Bill, those religious organisations that are not yet registered as an NPO and fall within the above definition, will be compelled to register.
Concern 2 – Criminal sanctions:
The Bill proposes, amongst other things, drastic changes to the NPO Act of 1997. These changes include making registration compulsory and imposing criminal sanctions, such as jail time for non-registration.
The result will not only be the imposition of additional administrative / financial burdens on religious organisations, but to do so in a situation where it is highly doubtful that the DSD has the manpower to review and/or assist with such applications and/or reporting. These additional burdens will be imposed with the threat of an unspecified fine and/or jail sentence for failure to comply.
Concern 3 – State Regulation of Religion:
Due to the DSD having the power to request changes to an organisation’s e.g. constitution, many religious organisations have decided not to register as an NPO. The Bill, as a result of making registration mandatory, will give broad and intrusive powers to the State to prescribe changes to religious organisations’ founding documents requirements on e.g. membership or leadership.
From a religious freedom point of view, many provisions on, for example, membership for religious organisations will be based on adhering to the organisation’s doctrines, beliefs, religious ethics etc. with non-adherents being excluded from membership and/or having their membership revoked. If the Bill is adopted in its current form, the State will have an open door to tell religious organisations how to run their internal affairs, and therefore what / how to believe. This is State regulation of religion.
The extended deadline for written comments to Parliament is 16h00 on Tuesday, 25 October 2022.
It is critical that as many religious leaders and organisations as possible immediately engage in the public participation process. FOR SA strongly encourages every religious organisation to submit comments on this Bill. To facilitate this, FOR SA has drafted the attached template submission for religious organisations.