Commission for Promotion & Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious & Linguistic Communities (CRL) briefing

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

17 June 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The CRL Rights Commission (CRLRC) contextualised their growth and development, as well as emphasised the need for adequate resources. They discussed their four programme, outlining their proposals for the forthcoming year.

Programme 1 Public Engagement and Education included alternative dispute resolution methods. Programme 2 Research and Policy Development included the development of cultural and language charters. Programme 3 Legal Services and Conflict Resolution involved investigation into complaints and recommendations. Programme 4 Communication and Marketing reached out to all communities. The CRLRC indicated financial struggles, hindering development in a number of sectors. They proposed a minimum 75% budget increase (part of their turnaround strategy), which some MPs considered excessive.

In the discussion that followed, MPs commended the growth and development of the work of the CRLRC. One Member said that the Committee had failed to support the Commission appropriately; members suggested that traditional leaders are central to the CRLRC’s challenges; ukuthwala was discussed and a colloquium on this issue was proposed. Concerns were raised over the budgeting of the Commission; witchcraft and spinning a positive light on it via animation were reflected on.

Meeting report

Commission for Promotion & Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious & Linguistic Communities
The work of the CRLRC includes the following: 


- Engagement with the African community in terms of how their languages and culture are being nationalised.

- A turnaround strategy has been advocated (as discussed in the presentation).
- A special commissioner has been assigned to the Khoi San people. 

- Progress has been made with Ukuthwala in terms of providing clarity to the nation. 

- Implementation of a more advanced system of initiation in schools. 

- Protection of cultural rights is pivotal to CRLRC work (in light of the reuse and recycling of graves). 

- African religion is also critical; how do you resuscitate what has been lost? 

- It has conducted many workshops on witchcraft, having dialogue with traditional leaders/healers.
- It has signed an MOU with the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) and the National House of Traditional Leaders, and it continues to work with the People’s Republic of China on animation.

Ms Thoko Mkwhanazi-Xaluva, CRLRC chairperson, explained the work of the CRLRC, together with communities and partners, and identified the vigorous efforts of the CRLRC in the past year. She felt that the CRLRC has demonstrated to the Committee what can be done with the funding they currently have. However as the demands of the communities increase, more adequate funding is required. 



Programme 1 – Public Engagement and Education:
CRLRC seeks to further their capacity to engage with communities on critical issues such as:
• Conducting alternative dispute resolution training for community councils – the CRLRC has discovered that there are instances were community councillors can resolve disputes within the council and between community councils, however they need capacity to do this. The CLRCR seek to capacitate 300+ councillors that are fully registered with it.
• Conflict resolution interventions
• Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – these methods have been explored, but further work is required, for example, capacitating community leaders to resolve disputes.

Programme 2 – Research and Policy Development:
-
The CRLRC intends to go beyond the religious charter and explore cultural and language charters. 
- Moreover, they intend to impose policy directions so that when the media report on issues, the CRLRC will respond immediately, so as to become immersed.
- The CRLRC has proposed more vigorous work on the Khoi San people; how do we resuscitate the historically diminished heritage of these individuals? 



Programme 3 – Legal Service and Conflict Resolution:
- The CRLRC has experienced a sharp increase in the number of complaints received. However, they can no longer manage the current rate and vast resources are required to deal with this.

Programme 4 – Communication and Marketing: 


- The CRLRC has pushed the media for coverage on relevant issues, however there is lack of direct communication with communities who have no access to television or radio. 


- Those who are supposed to be serving are not necessarily those who have access to computers and televisions, however CRLRC’s shortage of resources and lack of capacity prevent direct communications.
- Watered down reports have been adopted; however printing extends beyond the budget of the CRLRC.

Ms Mkwhanazi-Xaluva stated that the CRLRC feels the work has been dynamic, however it is concerned that staff will come to feel abused as one person is doing the work of five people at the Commission. With more resources much more can be attained. They can make people feel like they have a stake in this country through interface with rural communities and cultural practices so that the individuals concerned feel they can approach the CRLRC at any time.

Proposed Medium Term Allocation:
- Currently, the CRLRC has a baseline of R36 million, which, in comparison with other Chapter Nine Institutions, is insufficient. The Constitution states that all Chapter Nine Institutions are equally funded and must deliver to the relevant communities. 

- A minimum 75% increase is needed to survive, with a further 40% next year, and an additional 40% the following year. The CRLRC said that it may sound exorbitant in the sense of percentages, however when you consider the budget with the needs of those affected, a vigorous turnaround situation is needed. 



Breakdown of the Proposed Baseline Allocation: 


- The CRLRC require help now, and cannot advance any further without additional resources. 



Prof Luka David Mosoma (Deputy Chairperson) commented that their chair has exhaustively presented our case, however he wished to add one small point. The easier part for CRLRC was planning and developing a strategy, the most difficult is the implementation (requiring resources). The CRLRC’s appeal for resources will enhance organisational efficiency, and further raise the bar in the implementation of its programmes.


Mr Renier Schoeman, CRL Commissioner, indicated that since the appointment of the twelve new commissioners one year ago, there was determination from the side of the leadership, to apply our minds in mobilizing resources, which we have been successful in doing. For example the project that the chair referred to in passing (animation), he believes, holds the key to reaching younger people getting awareness of social cohesion. The other is in the last year we have mobilized in the order of 100 000 people attending selected events that are relevant and provide a platform for us to convey what the CRLRC is all about.

Discussion


Mr B Bhanga (DA) recognised that the functions of the CRLRC are core to the agenda of national building and social cohesion. However, in South Africa, we fail to acknowledge the importance of such institutions. Unfortunately, social cohesion efforts require money. He commended the work of the CRLRC, given the limited budget it has. The role of Parliament is to guide departments. CRLRC would receive no help from the Committee at this stage as the budget vote was concluded; the Committee has failed the Commission in not guiding it in what was required. Departmental senior advisors are required to attend such meetings to give an account of the budget planning and decisions, and the reason why this institution should be funded; these are the measures that should be taken. He appealed to the CRLRC chairperson to take the required measures to progress. He expressed his frustration over how the meeting has been conducted. He has listened to the CRLRL’s issues, and these are not new issues; they have been discussed before, however the Committee has failed to take appropriate action.

Mr C Matsepe (DA) agreed that the Commission will not achieve its objectives unless they are properly represented. He said that traditional leaders are the custodians for those things that you are trying to advocate, as well as the 300 plus councillors you have identified. He suggested that the Commission reconsider the structure of its report, so as to ensure proper interaction with the Committee, and others such as traditional leaders. In failing to do this, you will not move forward. 



Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) asked Ms Mkwhanazi-Xaluva if she believed in witchcraft. Moreover, he considered the financial struggles of the CRLRC. 


Mr M Mapulane (ANC) applauded the work of the CRLRC as identified in the media. He collectively commended the activist stance that the Commission is taking. He agreed with Mr Bhanga, in that the Commission is a chapter nine institution, thus requiring them to report directly to Parliament. They do not necessarily have a political principal, so when they wish to raise issues they will come directly to Parliament although they work independently from Parliament. He noted their eloquent appeal about the budget. CRLRC has made a case for an increase in budget, however it did not realise the Committee could not process this as the budget vote was already concluded recently.

He turned to the matter of Ukuthwala, and noted that numerous gender activists have spoken against this cultural practice, whether rightly or wrongly. In light of this, Mr Mapulane proposed a colloquium where these issues could be raised and publicly debated. 



Mr Mileham (DA) commented on the proposed budget and expressed his concern over a 141% increase over a three-year financial period. Notably, there would be no increase in the 2015/16 financial year. The 300% increase in litigation over a three-year time frame is huge and questioned why the CRLRC anticipates being in court such a lot? What are you going to court for? What are we fighting for? The Commission is supposed to be an ADR mechanism, so why then are they going to court?

Mr Mileham had huge concerns over the duplication of effort between the work of the commission and the Pan South African Language Board as both mandates overlap significantly. He recommended that the PANSALB and the Commission roll into one, and savings up to the value of R34 million could be effected – this would increase the budget of the Commission. There should be an increase in budget, however a number of budget areas were excessive.

Mr N Masondo (ANC) expressed his appreciation for the work that is being done, and recognised that this may help break new ground. For this reason, the Committee should be supportive of the Commission. He recommended that the Commission adopt a project approach, for example on the subject of the lack of African literature, it should partner with the Department of Arts and Culture which would be a practical start, and work together on the matter. He then turned to witchcraft and animism, and said that a creative approach should be adopted. If witchcraft were turned into a positive thing, then millions would see it outside its classic portrayal. He said if people are motivated, then such results would be desirable. We need to turn these stories around and point people in the right direction. 



Mr Bhanga stated that the Committee’s responsibility is over-sized, in the sense of guiding departments and providing oversight; however they have failed in this respect. He appealed that this meeting discuss practical suggestions on the way forward. Which Minister is responsible for this institution? The issue here is looking into the importance of the work of the CRLRC. Political office bearers are required to give an account of planning and the vision of the Department in relation to the funding of this institution. 



Response
Ms Mkwhanazi-Xaluva replied to Mr Matespe about his comment about traditional leaders, saying the CRLRC has signed an MOU with the National House of Traditional Leaders, and seeks to work with them in a structured way. 



On witchcraft, she stated that witchcraft is a national issue, and where individuals are accused of being witches, this ordinarily results in their death. Persons allege others to be the cause of community problems and so when the doctor fails to provide an explanation for these ‘problems’, people resort to the abnormal/super normal, especially where poverty, disease and unemployment are involved. 



She then discussed the re-use of graves, and stated that the CRLRC has partnered with municipalities for years to ensure ‘one family; one grave’. However partners have failed to cooperate; insisting on a more stringent approach, which may be a matter for litigation. Moreover, Chapter Nine institution must have teeth before acquiring the trust of a community to manage their complaints. How does one accept that a family members bones have been re-buried underneath another’s grave? How do you solve that? That is going against the core belief of those individuals; it is not something you take lightly. If this process continues, then you need to go to court and require that they enforce the recommendations of the CRLRC, thus requiring litigation. There is huge controversy around this within South Africa.

She responded to the question by Mr Mapulane on Ukuthwala, and advocated this process. The importance of open discussion is pivotal; you cannot determine another individual’s life, when discussing issues that you do not understand properly. Further, she remarked that the nation needs to be informed that the problem lies with people who abuse/abduct woman and children. She supported the proposal of a colloquium on this matter.

In response to the comment by Mr Mileham on the work of PANSALB, Ms Mkwhanazi-Xaluva acknowledged the overlap between both organisations. CRLRC hopes to work with PANSALB effectively, whilst we wait for Parliament to take a decision. Further, she acknowledged the commonalities, and the need to work with them. On Mr Masondo’s comment about the lack of classic African literature, they hope to further the work of PANSALB to ensure the promotion of literature. Animation would trigger the love for books by our children (for example, the Lion King). She added that if we are going to tell the story of Mandela to children, then a love for literature must be re-instilled; we should work together with television and be creative. Whilst commenting on literature and animation, Ms Mkwhanazi-Xaluva recognised that this too relates to witchcraft – if you take the powers away and turn this into a positive story, then children will grow up not being afraid of witches.

Prof Mosoma welcomed the notion of informing, educating and entertaining. He remarked on the colloquium in Soweto on the 25 June to consider specifically views on African languages. Attentiveness to African literature would only advance when children begin to appreciate our languages. The pre-eminence of English language means that the possibility of igniting interest in mother tongue languages is gradually diminishing, thus emphasising that work needs to be done. He proposed partnerships with investors and institutions such as Parliament to ensure this. 



Mr Corne Smuts, CRLRC CFO, commented on the budget: firstly, the commission is aware that adjustments can be made in the outer two years if increments seem unrealistic. Secondly, he stressed the need for consideration for an adjustment to the budget as is done in September by Treasury. The CRLRC’s situation cannot be avoided any further. 



Mr Mileham referred to the need for litigation and asked how many recommendations from the Commission have not been acted on? What is the nature of these recommendations? 


Secondly, Mr Mileham supported the proposed colloquium, and advocated discussion over whether human rights trump cultural rights. He provided contentious illustrations such as cannibalism and female genital mutilation. By supporting certain cultural rights, are we proscribing an individual’s human rights?

Mr Mdakane proposed meeting with other Chapter Nine institutions to have a discussion on cultural rights. He offered engagement on the budgetary problems, as well as recognising the overlap between CRLRC and PANSALB. We must consider that as well as some of the proposals. He disagreed with the illustration by Mr Mileham. 



Prof Mosoma, in response to the question by Mr Mileham, emphasised that the culture which the CRLRC is trying to promote, is in no way close to the cannibalism culture. 



Mr Mileham responded to Prof Mosoma and stated that those were examples of extreme situations. We need to evaluate all cultural practices against human rights and say do we support these? For example, Ukuthwala – do we support it? 


Ms Mkwhanazi-Xaluva indicated that the CRLRC is able to weave around those issues – even the Constitution states that your cultural and religious rights should be protected so long as they do not violate the Bill of Rights. For example, virginity testing must be voluntary and the result is confidential. Moreover, on the issue of female genital mutilation, the CRLRC has been clear that they do not support this practice. The issue of virginity testing is much less dramatic than this. Further, she remarked on Ukuthwala, saying those individuals should be tried and sentenced; we need to take back our country from criminals. There is nothing wrong with those who are in love and consent to marriage. 



Mr Mdakane stated that Ukuthwala is a very complex issue, and more attention must be given to this matter. He said that it will be interesting to find out about the complexity of this matter when considering the CRLRC’s report on this in full. 



The meeting was adjourned.

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