CRL Rights Commission on its Annual Performance Plan 2015/16

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

17 March 2015
Chairperson: Mdakane, Mr MR
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Meeting Summary

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) briefed the Committee on its Annual Performance Plan. The Commission was dealing with issues of diminished heritage. The Commission had tackled the issue of initiation schools and the nation had taken note; and had also looked at religious rights. The Commission was additionally finalising a report on graves and the recycling thereof, taking into consideration how it affected people. There were apparently also graves located on the site of the Madupi Power Station and the Commission was looking into the matter. A vast number of complaints had been received over the practise of virginity testing; the Commission was working on the matter. The Commission was disappointed with its budget; funds were needed to do its work. Given SA’s history of being divided along racial, ethnic, and cultural, religion and linguistic lines there existed a need for social cohesion and nation building. In considering its Annual Performance Plan the four strategic objectives of the Commission was elaborated upon:

Strengthening and empowering communities - the Commission would conduct conflict resolution training. It would also be organising and facilitating nation building dialogues. There was also research engagement to develop cultural, religious and language charters. Work on the religious charter had already started. It was the first time SA had a religious charter that promoted and protected all religions. The charter had been signed by many faiths, and was a platform to make the statement that people had religious rights. The Commission had however identified the need to regulate religious institutions. Peoples’ belief systems were being exploited. Many churches had sprung up and there was a need for a self-regulating system. The Committee would be fully briefed on the religious charter. The commercialisation of traditional and religious practices was identified as a problem needing legislation. Many church leaders were becoming millionaires yet were purporting to run non-profit organisations.

Establish and run an effective communication and marketing function – The Commission was ensuring that its voice be heard. All types of media were taken on board. The idea was to mainstream the work of the Commission into legislation. The Commission felt that legislation that had been passed was not applicable to South Africans. A simple example was where the parents of a child died. African tradition called for a family member to raise the child. However in terms of the law the relative had to go to the High Court to have rights over the child.

Mainstreaming cultural, religious and language rights into the law making process - The Commission recommended national policy positions on religious freedoms and rights, animal slaughtering and on ukuhlolwa and graves. Animal slaughtering was entrenched in African tradition but needed to be proper regulation. The Commission was researching ukuhlolwa. It was asked why the Sexual Offences and the Children’s’ Acts were not enforced.  Culture in itself was not abusive but cultural practices were being abused. Apparently the Madupi Power Station was built on a gravesite and there were also graves around the power station. How could people access these graves and how could reparations be paid. How could people also access graves on farms? The Commission was engaging with farmer unions over the matter.

Create organisational efficiency – The Commission took the decision to freeze the filling of vacant positions in order to create savings for the delivery of programs. For 2015/16 R4.2m had been saved and the Commission hoped that its finances would improve in the near future. The legislative review process needed to be revised.

The Commission had entered into Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the National House of Traditional Leaders, the Military Ombudsman, Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) and the Legal Aid Board. 

The Commission stressed its need for increased budget. The budget for 2014/15 was R32.3m and for 2015/16 was R35.8m.

The Committee felt that the presentation lacked detail on performance indicators since the briefing covered the Commission’s Annual Performance Plan. Was the work of the Commission not a duplication of the work by the Pan South Africa Language Board (PanSALB) on language? Given the shortage in gravesite areas and the possibility of re-using existing graves members were interested to know what the Commission’s plans were. Members also cautioned that the rights of one community should not be promoted at the expense of another community’s rights, a balance was needed. Concern was raised that the Commission was calling for the regulation of religious bodies. Religious bodies were after all protected by the Constitution. The Committee observed that the Commission had highlighted many challenges but had not recommended solutions to those challenges. Members were concerned that the Commission had, as a cost saving exercise not filled vacant posts. Vacant posts needed to be filled. Members were surprised that the Commission was calling for increases in its budget when presently 59% of its budget was spent on the payment of salaries. The Commission was instructed to lay a foundation for a common South African culture. It was by no means an easy task and would be work in progress.


Prof Mosoma said that the Commission had highlighted and framed the problems. Solutions were to be crafted. On the development of a South African culture, whose culture was to be used? In China there were a multiplicity of cultures but they identified a common denominator to unify them. What was SA’s common denominator? What was the way forward for SA? Ethnicity and tribalism was what derailed SA. It was a time bomb that needed serious engagement. 

Meeting report

CRL Rights Commission

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities or better known as the CRL Rights Commission briefed the Committee on its Annual Performance Plan. The delegation comprised of Ms Thoko Mkwanazi-Xaluva Chairperson; Prof David Mosoma, Deputy Chairperson; Mr Edward Mafadza, Acting Chief Executive Officer; and Mr C Smuts, Chief Financial Officer; amongst others.

Ms Mkwanazi-Xaluva undertook the briefing. The Commission was almost a year old. It was dealing with issues of diminished heritage. The Committee had been concerned about the low profile of the Commission. The Commission had tackled the issue of initiation schools and the nation had taken note; and had also looked at religious rights. The Commission was additionally finalising a report on graves and the recycling thereof taking into consideration how it affected people. Apparently graves were located on the site of the Madupi Power Station and the Commission was looking into the matter. A vast number of complaints had been received over the practise of virginity testing; the Commission was working on the matter. The Commission was disappointed with its budget; it needed funds to do its work. Capacity was needed. The budget for 2014/15 was R32.3m and for 2015/16 was R35.8m. She touched on the vision and mission of the Commission. Given SA’s history of being divided along racial, ethnic, and cultural, religion and linguistic lines there existed a need for social cohesion and nation building. In considering its Annual Performance Plan the four strategic objectives of the Commission were elaborated upon:

Strengthening and empowering communities - the Commission would conduct conflict resolution training, and would also be organising and facilitating nation-building dialogues. There was also research engagement to develop cultural, religious and language charters. Work on the religious charter had already started. It was the first time SA had a religious charter that promoted and protected all religions. The charter had been signed by many faiths, and was a platform to make the statement that people had religious rights. The Commission had however identified the need to regulate religious institutions. Peoples’ belief systems were being exploited. Many churches had sprung up and there was a need for a self-regulating system. The Committee would be fully briefed on the religious charter. The commercialisation of traditional and religious practices was identified as a problem that needed legislation. There were many church leaders who were becoming millionaires yet were purporting to run non-profit organisations. Research was also to be done on the culture and religion of the Khoisan people. The issue was about how to tell the nation’s stories to its children. The Commission was engaging with the national broadcaster ie the SABC.

Establish and run an effective communication and marketing function – The Commission was ensuring that its voice be heard and all types of media were taken on board. The idea was to mainstream the work of the Commission into legislation. The Commission felt that legislation that had been passed was not applicable to South Africans. A simple example was where the parents of a child died. African tradition called for a family member to raise the child. However in terms of the law the relative had to go to the High Court to have rights over the child.

Mainstreaming cultural, religious and language rights into the law making process - the Commission recommended national policy positions on religious freedoms and rights, animal slaughtering and on ukuhlolwa and graves. Animal slaughtering was entrenched in African tradition but needed proper regulation. The Commission was researching ukuhlolwa. It was asked why the Sexual Offences and the Children’s’ Acts were not enforced.  Culture in itself was not abusive but cultural practices were being abused. The Madupi Power Station was apparently built on a gravesite. There were also graves around the power station. How could people access these graves and how could reparations be paid. How could people also access graves on farms? The Commission was engaging with farmer unions over the matter. The Commission was finalising its report on graves and the re-use thereof. Africans accessed their ancestors through graves.

Create organisational efficiency – The Commission took the decision to freeze the filling of vacant positions in order to create savings for the delivery of programs. For 2015/16 R4.2m had been saved and the Commission hoped that its finances would improve in the near future. The legislative review process needed to be revised.

The Commission had entered into Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the National House of Traditional Leaders, the Military Ombudsman, Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) and the Legal Aid Board. Some complaints had been received from persons in the military that religious rights were not accommodated to the same extent as Christianity was. The Legal Aid Board was being engaged to assist communities to fight for their cultural rights. 

Discussion                          

Mr N Masondo (ANC) said there would always be contradictions between development and cultural practices; SA was not the first country to experience this dilemma. More issues would arise. Two million people lived in Soweto and places to bury people were in short supply. New land was being allocated but it was located away from Soweto. It was a challenge that the municipality involved would have to deal with. He asked whether the Commission could recommend alternatives that would be accepted by people. How were communities being engaged? An increase in the budget of the CRL Rights Commission was difficult, as there were competing plans and programmes from other government departments that had to be taken into consideration. Challenges needed to be turned into programmes and plans, and there was a need to prioritise. The military was one of the oldest institutions in the world and it would be difficult to change things. Dialogue was needed on religious rights so that a balance could be attained.

Ms Mkwanazi-Xaluva said the Commission had recommendations on the issue of lack of land for graves and the recycling of graves. The Commission had a report that dealt with the issue of graves in general and specifically in relation to the possibility of graves being on site at the Madupi Power Station. Cape Town was a city that set a good example on the reuse of graves; one option was for family members to decide to reuse graves of beloved ones. Culturally and religiously acceptable alternatives had to be considered. The Commission’s test was that cultural and religious practises should not violate the Bill of Rights.

Mr K Mileham (DA) pointed out that the presentation on the Annual Performance Plan lacked performance indicators. He felt here was duplication between the work of the Commission and PanSALB. On the earlier statement made by the Chairperson of the Commission that cultural rights were not abusive he noted that there was some element of hypocrisy. Care should be taken not to promote one communities rights’ over that of another’s. For example on the slaughtering of livestock in residential areas how did one balance the rights of the persons doing the slaughtering and those of the other residents staying in the area? A middle point was needed. Some in SA perhaps saw virginity testing as a positive practice whilst others saw it as an infringement of a female’s rights. He was concerned that the Commission called for the regulation of religious bodies. Religious bodies were protected by the Constitution. He was cautious about having a morality police. The religious beliefs of people should not be infringed upon. Who was to determine what was right and what was wrong? There were criminal laws in place that could keep wrong doers in place. A legal basis for someone to act on behalf of a child was important. The Commission had highlighted many challenges but had not offered solutions. What solutions was the Commission offering? What recommendation did the Commission make regarding graves? If Madupi Power Station was built on graves what solution or alternative was the Commission suggesting? How were the inputs of communities being taken into account? Greater communication and input was needed on what should be included in legislation.

Ms Mkwanazi-Xaluva responded that the Commission had made recommendations to the Committee on legal guardianship. The Commission looked at ways of how traditional leadership could facilitate issues of guardianship. The Commission did have a memorandum of understanding with the PanSALB. The PanSALB did not deal with the rights of language. The Commission made recommendations on animal slaughtering. There had to be a balance between the rights of one group to slaughter and of the surrounding neighbours who found it unacceptable. The Commission had compiled a report on virginity testing. Most of the legislation on children was from the Department of Social Development. The Children’s Act had tight regulations that needed to be enforced. People who conducted virginity testing needed to be capacitated. These persons should get social workers to speak to children.

Prof Mosoma explained that PanSALB dealt with the standardisation of language. If the Commission came across a diminishing language then it was referred to PanSALB. The Commission focused on promoting and protecting linguistic rights.

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) noted that most of the issues under discussion were debatable one way or the other. The presentation had not been too clear on the actual work of the Commission; the Committee needed greater detail. The Commission’s Annual Performance Plan should be provided to the Committee. What the plan was in relation to the regulation of religious bodies, and what was the reaction of people at grassroots level? Urbanisation had caused great migration to cities like Johannesburg.  It would be difficult to regulate the large number of religious bodies to be found in areas like Johannesburg. He was disappointed that the Commission had not filled vacant posts in the organisation in order to free up funds for other projects, for all he knew employees were worked out of the Commission, and not filling of vacant posts did not sit well with him. Government was after all trying to create jobs.

Ms Mkwanazi-Xaluva responded that Members should have received the Commission’s Annual Performance Plan in the packs that were handed out. The actual plans of the Commission were spelt out in it. The issue of regulation of religious bodies was a heated issue and the Commission was engaging with religious leaders. A charter would be put in place. The main problem was commercialisation of religion that leads to the exploitation of the public. The Commission proposed a self-regulating mechanism by respected religious leaders themselves. The charter on religion would guarantee the right to religion. Consultation would take place extensively and the Commission would make recommendations.  

Mr M Mapulane (ANC) agreed that the Committee needed to peruse the actual Annual Performance Plan of the Commission and Members needed greater detail. The presentation had given the Committee a good sense of the role, responsibility and vision of the Commission. The need existed for dialogue between the Commission and stakeholders on cultural practises. Gender activists especially needed to be consulted. The ANC Women’s League’s view was already contradictory to the Commission’s view of some cultural practises.  A balance was needed as society was always evolving. Dialogue was key. Research was needed on the culture and religion of the Khoi and San indigenous people, and their language should also be researched. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) was already looking into the kingship issues of the Khoi and the San. He agreed that religious practices should be regulated. Rights protected by the Constitution were subject to regulation.  Regulation of religious practises was needed to prevent abuse. He was concerned that R21.2m of the R35m of the Commission’s budget was for staff salaries; it was a matter that needed addressing. More programmes should be funded.

Ms Mkwanazi-Xaluva spoke to 59% of the Commission’s budget being spent on staff salaries and said that efforts were being made to lower the figure. Where posts had been vacated, staff could not be prevented from taking better jobs. The Commission was starting a programme of internships. The budget of the Commission needed to be increased so that it could do its work throughout SA.

Mr M Galo (AIC) said that SA still had political challenges post 1994 democracy. The Apartheid Government had adopted the Westminster System and it was still prevalent in SA, the ANC government had not changed the system. The challenge of cultural norms and values would persist. When laws were being made proper and meaningful consultation should take place. Communities in SA were angry that they were not beneficiaries of democracy. The Commission in its consultations should include traditional institutions. When laws were passed it affected ordinary people. SA had people from different social backgrounds.

Mr A Mudau (ANC) was concerned about ritual killing and the killing of supposed witches. He asked what could the Commission suggested regarding the regulation of religious bodies like churches. It was pointed out that post 1994 churches were required to be registered. Church leaders had to register churches.

Ms Mkwanazi-Xaluva said that there was a national campaign in place to prevent the killing of supposed witches and to stop ritual killings.

Mr C Matsepe (DA) stressed that religious practices was a difficult matter. Traditional leaders were the beneficiaries of bad practices. The Commission had to establish a system in the traditional setting. In every community there were persons who were unhappy with the way traditional leaders operated. The Commission needed to inform communities about the changes it wished to make. Progressive voices in communities needed to be targeted to bring the message across to others.  Years could be spent in discussion with traditional leaders. The problem was that traditional leaders did not carry across the discussion points to their communities, and different communities had different practices. Circumcisions were done along riverbeds and the young men were required to wash themselves afterwards, which polluted the water that others further down the river drank.

Ms Mkwanazi-Xaluva stated that legislation required the Commission to have community councils. At present there were three hundred community councils. Groundwork was being done to give direction on traditional leadership, political leadership and religious leadership. There were religious, cultural and language charters in place. The Commission would discuss the charters with the Committee at another meeting.

The Chairperson said that a common South African culture needed to be developed. A general South African culture was needed. Religion and spirituality was not clearly defined. The Commission needed to lay a firm foundation of what South African culture was. One culture was needed or else SA would not reach the society it wished to be; and the Commission was sufficiently capacitated to achieve this goal. The Committee had to meet with other committees such as the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture. A qualitative development of South African culture was needed. Efforts were undoubtedly work in progress.

Ms Mkwanazi-Xaluva, on creating a South African culture, asked what were acceptable principles that as South Africans we could live with as a nation. For example how different cultures dealt with the death of a person. For the most part there were similarities but there were still differences. There was a need to codify issues in terms of what was acceptable and what was not. The issue was about what was appropriate.

Prof Mosoma said that the Commission had highlighted and framed the problems. Solutions were to be crafted. On the development of a South African culture, whose culture was to be used? n China there were a multiplicity of cultures but they identified a common denominator to unify them. What was SA’s common denominator? What was the way forward for SA? Ethnicity and tribalism was what derailed SA. It was a time bomb that needed serious engagement.

The Chairperson stated that the South African society was evolving and migrating to urban centres. There was a process to building a new country. An overall society would develop over time. Cultural activities in conflict with the Bill of Rights had to be discouraged.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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