PRESS RELEASE: 20 March 2018

For immediate distribution

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE CHALLENGES CRL ON “RECKLESS” STATEMENTS

On Tuesday, 20 March, the COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee met with the CRL Rights Commission (CRL) for a briefing on the recent incident involving Seven Angel cult in Ngcobo. The briefing follows various statements in the media by the CRL Chairperson, Mrs Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, to the effect that Parliament should answer for the Ngcobo shootings and that lives could have been saved if Parliament had acted sooner.

At the meeting, the COGTA Committee took issue with these statements and/or the suggestion by the CRL that Parliament knew that the cult was a “ticking time bomb” and did nothing about it, and challenged the CRL to point out when and where specifically this was brought to the Committee’s attention. Despite a request from various members of the Committee that the CRL retract and apologise for their statements, which various members of the Committee described as “reckless” and “unfortunate”, no such retraction or apology was made.

Instead, the CRL (after consultation with the new Minister of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Zweli Mkhize) proposed that the discussions around the regulation of religion be re-opened before the COGTA Committee. According to the CRL Chair, “we want to come back and say to COGTA why Parliament’s recommendations will not work.” This proposal did not seem to find favour with the Committee who indicated that, while they are always open for discussion, there was no need to re-hash the same issues which had already been discussed at length with much public input.

In response to DA MP Kevin Mileham’s question whether the CRL has taken any steps to implement what the COGTA Committee has recommended, including particularly the convening of a National Consultative Conference for Religious Leaders where a Code of Conduct for religious communities can be developed, the CRL again indicated that they did not have the budget for it, but replied that they assigned a Commissioner to look into international codes.

In response to a further question regarding the CRL’s stated intention to approach the Constitutional Court for a declaratory order regarding the constitutionality of the CRL’s recommendations for the regulation of religion (as proposed in their Final Report on the “Commercialisation” of Religion and Abuse of People’s Belief Systems), and what the status of that application is, the CRL Chair stated that “the lawyers are still working on it. We have gotten legal advice, but are also consulting other parties in terms of whether our recommendations are constitutional or not. So, we are looking at other avenues”.

In this regard, Adv Nadene Badenhorst of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) who attended this morning’s briefing, comments that “it is curious that the CRL cannot afford a National Consultative Conference for Religious Leaders as proposed by the vast majority of religious organisations and recommended by COGTA, yet has enough money to institute expensive litigation in the Constitutional Court which will no doubt be opposed by various parties.”

The briefing concluded with the Chair of the COGTA Committee reiterating that the statements by the CRL were “unfortunate, because it forced the Parliamentary Spokesperson to say something”. (Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo had previously, and in response to the CRL’s finger-pointing at Parliament, stated that the CRL Chair’s comments “demonstrated poor understanding of the constitutional mandate of Parliament and its relations with the Commission”).

ENDS.

For more information, contact:
Michael Swain
Executive Director, FOR SA
Email: Michael.swain@forsa.org.za
Cell: 072 270 1217