ATC180214: Report Of The Pc on Cogta on the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) on the Commercialisation of Religion and Abuse of Peoples Beliefs dated 14 February 2018
Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Act
South African Municipal Workers' Union v Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CCT54/16)  ZACC 7; 2017 (5) BCLR 641 (CC)
Committee on CoGTA Welcomes Amendments to Municipal Systems Amendment Bill
The Committee hosted a visit by the Vietnamese National Assembly’s Council for Ethnic Affairs to discuss and share ways in which they could deal with issues of common interest. It was also briefed by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the changes incorporated in the amendments to the Municipal Systems Bill. Finally, the Committee was briefed by the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic (CRL) Rights Commission on the commercialisation of religion and the abuse of people’s belief systems.
The Vietnamese delegation said their role was to implement the policy which affected ethnic issues. They focused their work mostly on disadvantaged groups which were in great need of further development. Vietnam had 54 ethnic groups, of which 53 were minorities, and due to issues such as geographical constraints, the minorities were less developed. Their annual income was about 50% of the majority group. For this reason, they were developing policies for the minority groups, and had made remarkable achievements in respect of poverty alleviation.
The Municipal Systems Bill had been amended in 2011, but subsequently declared invalid by the Constitutional Court because the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) had not been consulted. Parliament had been given 24 months to process it correctly, but had failed do so during the Fifth Parliament. It was now going through the same process over again. The bill provided for the monitoring and checking of appointments of senior managers to ensure they had the required skills and qualifications; introduced standardised competency tests across the provinces; prohibited the appointment of senior staff found guilty of misconduct in other municipalities; made it mandatory for them to sign employment and performance contracts; and dealt with the limitation on their political rights.
The CRL said there had been articles in the media which referred to grass-eating, snake eating or petrol drinking, which had led some members of society to start questioning whether religion had become a commercial institution or commodity, and how much peoples’ spirituality and beliefs were being abused. The Commission had decided to investigate to get a better understanding of the deep societal thinking that made some members of society vulnerable to views expressed and actions done during religious ceremonies. Another reason was to assess the legal framework governing the religious sector and its relevance to deal with the prevailing religious challenges.
Their findings had included that there was no comprehensive database of religious leaders and places of worship, and a high number of unregistered religious institutions; a big surge in the number of both local and foreign religious leaders; deaths of worshippers from using “faith products” and defaulting on their chronic medication; and “cult-like” religious organisations, with unconventional preaching styles.
Members debated on the need to distinguish clearly between criminality and freedom of religion, stressing that regulation should not contradict the freedom as envisioned by the constitution. They urged the CRL to go into the communities and inform them about the unconventional churches, otherwise people would not know if what they were doing was wrong or right. Parliament needed to consider the courts’ previous findings, as well as the concerns of faith-based organisations.
Meeting with Vietnamese National Assembly’s Council for Ethnic Affairs
The Chairperson welcomed the Vietnamese National Assembly’s Council for Ethnic Affairs, and commented that this was the beginning of an everlasting relationship. He said that the Vietnamese held a special place in the hearts of South Africa, and that they were mindful and thankful for their contribution during the country’s struggle for independence. South Africa was a multi-party country, and the Committee had a single goal of executing oversight on the executive with regard to cooperative governance
South Africa had a heterogeneous culture with different religious ethics and languages. The constitution recognised 11 languages, with nine black ethnic groups each speaking different languages. The coloured community also had different ethnic groups among themselves. They had established a commission to ensure that everyone had the right to practice their religion and cultural beliefs. There was a responsibility to provide for the oversight of this commission, which advocated harmony and cooperation in a multi-cultural society, given the history of racial discrimination.
However, there were still challenges, especially on the issue of discrimination across racial lines. They were losing young people due to some harmful cultural practices, such as those at initiation schools. Another concern was the use of Afrikaans and English at the expense of other languages. However, they continued to engage with the commission in order to do away with the challenges.
He said they were looking forward to learning how Vietnam reconciled the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam.
Mr Nguyen Thi Kim Ngam, Chairperson, Vietnamese National Assembly’s Council for Ethnic Affairs, said it was a pleasure for the delegation to be in South Africa. South Africa was one of the leading economies in Africa, and he hoped that this would be the beginning of an everlasting relationship.
Part of their duty was to implement the policy which affected ethnic issues; make recommendations to do with ethnic groups; and draft their own legal documents with regard to ethnic issues. They focused their work mostly on disadvantaged groups which were in great need of further development. They comply with s4 of the Constitution, which was harmony, unity and respect between ethnic groups.
Vietnam had 54 ethnic groups, of which 53 were ethnic minorities. Due to issues such as geographical constraints, the 53 were less developed than others. Their annual income was about 50% of the majority group. For this reason, they made legal documents and policies for those minority groups. They had made remarkable achievements in terms of poverty alleviation. There had not been any law of Ac,t as they were still in the process of making legal documents to support those minorities.
He wanted to hear from the Committee about the overview of the country’s racial groups and the percentage of poor households, and the specific policies with regard to disadvantaged groups.
Ms G Opperman (DA) said that Vietnam had much to teach South Africa due to the low crime rate and the booming economy. She asked how they dealt with their agricultural sector, which almost collapsed after the war.
Mr Ngam responded that they had gone through three continuous wars, and they had devastated more than just the agricultural area. They started with a lack of food to becoming the largest exporter of food in the world. The key to that was an effort to remove public and state ownership of agricultural assets. They had freed the land provisions to farmers and households. They had also developed a policy for the farmers.
Mr K Ceza (EFF) referred to the issue of violence and how it was affecting how they treated women. He asked how they have dealt with that, and how they had incorporated minority groups’ participation in the economy. What proportion of the minorities was participating in the economy? He also mentioned the hegemony of languages -- for example, in South Africa, they had two dominant languages. He asked how they dealt with this issue in Vietnam.
Mr Ngam responded that during the war the economy was centralised, with state subsidies. After the war, they had removed the centralised subsidies and moved to more of a market economy. On the issue of land provided to the landless, he said they had plenty of land. It was in their policy that land belonged to people, managed by the state. He commented that among the 53 minorities there was a problem of some lacking land, but they were trying to tackle the problem. They also try to provide financial support in terms of money so that they could start businesses, or else move them to where they had open space for them.
Ethnic minorities participated in the economy both directly and indirectly. They also had unions -- for example, there were women’s and youth unions. Indirect participation was through representative governance.
On the issue of language, he said their official language was Vietnamese, but the constitution allowed for ethnic group languages to be used as well.
He said that after the war, the issue of gender improved, as evidenced in their delegation of six, of which four were women. They also had laws on gender equity which provided women with a better role to protect themselves. Also, women were encouraged to join local associations to equip themselves with the knowledge to protect themselves and overcome challenges.
He asked the Committee how they had dealt with the issues of racial groups.
Ms P Xaba-Ntshaba (ANC) asked if, when the Vietnamese government gave people land, it gave the people assistance in the form of equipment to use, such as tractors. Had it opened up the market for the people in order for them to survive? She was glad to hear about women’s and youth unions, as this would assist them to understand how other countries overcame challenges.
Mr Ngam responded that after the war, land which was owned by landowners was taken by the government. They took back land given to state enterprises if they were useless. In areas with different levels of economic development, the government could buy land back or subsidise it and sell it to farmers. They also gave people land where there were forests to cultivate. For an ethnic minority, they had a policy that encouraged them to reclaim the land where it was possible. Regarding government assistance, although they had a policy to provide equipment, it also depended on the area, because the requirements of areas differed. They also had skills development programmes, especially for the disadvantaged.
Regarding government assistance in opening up the market, since they had moved from a centralised economy to a more market-oriented economy, that was at the centre of their mandate.
He added that they also had problems with people selling the land given to them by the government. What they had done now was to create a law that did not give full ownership, but accorded a limited right of use. However, after ten years, they could sell.
Municipal Systems Bill
The Committee was told that the 2011 Municipal Systems Bill sought to make certain provisions in the original Municipal Systems Act to make provisions for the appointment of senior managers in municipalities, and the processes that were to be followed in these appointments. Since 2011, that particular process had been followed, but it had gone through many phases that had led to certain impacts.
The amendment of 2011 had been declared invalid by the Constitutional Court because the Bill was tagged incorrectly. It was tagged as a section 75 (National Assembly) and not as a section 76 (National Council of Provinces) bill affecting provinces. This meant that the provinces had not been consulted in the framing of these amendments. Parliament had been given 24 months to tag it correctly. However, it failed to fulfill this mandate within the stipulated timeframe and as result, it had asked for an extension from the court. This had been denied by the court.
The Constitutional court had not adjudicated on the substantive matter that had been raised -- that the section that dealt with the limitation of the political rights of senior managers was unconstitutional. However, when the court ruled on the tagging, it had said it was not important to rule on this substantive matter since the process of tagging the bill was in itself done incorrectly.
The processes followed by Parliament during the fifth administration were outlined. The Systems Amendment Bill was redrafted, which provided for the repeal of the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill of 2011, and also introduced the same provisions that were introduced in 2011. The Chief State Law Advisor had given a certification that indicated that the bill as introduced now, was constitutional. The draft Bill was submitted to the Cabinet on 19 November 2018 and it was then taken to the Governance and Administration (GNA) Committee on 27 November 2018. The draft Amendment Bill was approved by the Cabinet on 5 December, and the final certification of the Bill was done on 28 December 2018.
After following all these processes the Bill was then introduced to Parliament on 6 February 2019. However, the bill was not finalised in the fifth Parliament, so it had to be revived. The Minister had written a letter to the leader of government business to revive the bill that had been processed in the fifth administration. The bill was then revived on 29 October 2019. The bill had gone through all the processes, and what was left was for it to go through the sixth Parliament so that it could be engaged by relevant stakeholders and go through the process of consultation in order for taking the bill to the National Assembly (NA) for voting, and subsequently to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for them to deliberate and then take the matter forward.
The reason why they had introduced this bill similar to 2011 Act which had been declared unconstitutional was because of the impact that the government had made in the local government sphere. Since the promulgation of this bill in Parliament, they had made sure that Parliament monitored the appointments of senior managers, and through that they had made sure that a total of 1 218 critical senior management positions had been filled with suitably qualified senior managers. Through that law, they had been able to check and monitor anyone who was appointed to a senior position in local government had the requisite skills and qualifications. Additionally, it also introduced a competency test that they had developed at COGTA, which helped them to determine if the people appointed met the criteria. The competence test was incorporated in the legislation in 2014, and as a result, they were also able to monitor the right people for the right positions.
It also made provision for checks and balances to ensure that municipalities complied with minimum competency levels. As a result, municipalities across the country were all using the same standardised competences when appointing senior managers. In instances were municipalities made appointments of senior managers contrary to the Act and the regulations, the law allowed the Minister and the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) to take steps to make the municipalities nullify those appointments. In instances where the municipals did not adhere to the advice of the Minister and the MEC, the municipalities could by law be taken to court. It also prohibited the appointment of senior staff who had been guilty of misconduct in other municipalities. Municipalities were also not allowed to appoint any other person outside of their adopted organograms.
Therefore, adopting these sections from the 2011 unconstitutional bill gave COGTA liberty to ensure that suitable, qualified people were appointed.
The proposed amendments were as follows;
S54(a) set the criteria for the appointment of senior managers (standardised minimum requirements across the country). To ensure that the municipalities comply with this, there was some balancing and checks. For example, in the bill, they were now saying that all municipalities, once they made an appointment, must report to the MEC responsible for local government. The MEC would look at the processes and if the MEC was not satisfied with the process followed, the MEC would ask the municipality to revise the appointments. The MEC was also required to report to the Minister who was responsible for local governance.
The bill also had a clause dealing with the limitation of political rights, which prevents municipal staff managers to be appointed as senior managers and at the same time hold office in a political party.
The section 57 amendment requires the signing of employment and performance contracts. This meant that the appointment of senior managers was not complete until after these were signed. They also wanted to include a section that allowed the Minister to prescribe standards to evaluate the performance of municipal managers and senior managers so that the performance management system was standardised. It also deleted s57(a) to s 57(1) so that all other senior managers who were accountable to the municipal managers should be employed on a permanent basis.
Section 57(a) now required the Minister to have a database, to avoid the appointment of people accused of misconduct being employed in another municipality.
The amendments also did away with the negotiation of salaries with municipalities -- the salary would already be determined when the person was appointed.
The Municipal Manager was also now required to draw an organogram or organisational structure which had to be submitted to the council, and then the council had to approve it. The council must ensure that the organogram fits the purpose and the size of that municipality, so any appointment had to be made within that organisational structure.
S 72 gave the Minister the ability to regulate staff matters in relation to salaries, human resources, etc so that there was standardisation in local governance.
S 106 also enables the Minister to conduct investigations into incidents of maladministration, fraud and corruption.
The last clause, which was the liability clause, states in instances when councillors in a council meeting deliberate and take wrong decisions, irrespective of whether they were advised by their accounting officers, they were liable jointly for the fruitless and irregular expenditure as a result of making that decision. This, therefore, precluded councillors from sitting in a council meeting and voting for a wrong decision.
Ms Opperman asked if these amendments would help, for example, with her situation in the Northern Cape. There were a couple of municipal managers in the Northern Cape who did not meet the basic minimum requirements. The relevant MECs had sent letters to the mayors telling them that these managers must vacate their positions. However, the mayors had withheld the letters from the council. Now the letters had come to light, and she had approached the Minister the previous week and been told it was the responsibility of the council, and COGTA could not interfere nationally to do anything. She asked how they could enforce the council to abide by the recommendations of the relevant MEC in the province.
Ms M Tlou (ANC) maintained that there was a need to employ suitable people. If anyone held a high position in a political party, they were not liable to hold any high position in the municipalities. She agreed that dismissed people should not be employed in other municipalities.
Mr Ceza expressed his satisfaction at the fact that political tensions which had arisen as a result of people occupying two offices would become a thing of the past. This was because these tensions created unhealthy relationships with the accounting officers, therefore impacting negatively on service delivery and the mandate of the municipality to deliver basic services.
He also asked how the Bill was going to help with the realisation of all standards in relation to the remuneration of the professionals that would be employed. What would the standardised approach to remuneration do towards the reduction of issues such as corruption?
Ms Xaba-Ntshaba asked the Department if they could help the municipality to follow the procedure of in-sourcing people that were working in municipalities. For example, metro policy was not to give benefits such as danger allowances and house allowances. Some personnel were even working from Monday to Sunday, and hence had no time to spend with their families. She asked the Department to make a follow up to ensure that municipalities followed the correct procedure.
Mr M Hendricks (Al Jama-ah) said that he had seven years’ experience in municipalities. In one of the municipalities, there had been 1 000 forensic investigations. He asked if there were enough checks and balances because it was not acceptable to have 1 000 forensic investigations in one municipality in one year.
Chairperson asked if the amendment on the limitation of political rights and participation covered all municipal employees, or if was it limited to senior management in the municipal councils.
COGTA said that the issue of the Northern Cape was well known to them. The Northern Cape was one of the provinces where they had not effectively followed the processes as outlined in the law, such as where municipalities were ignoring the advice of the MEC and the Minister to annul wrong appointments. The next step they had in law was for the MEC and the Minister to apply to a court for a declaratory order. There was an indication from the MEC’s office that they were working towards the annulment of the appointment. If this was not done, a declaratory order would be made against those councillors who had ignored the directive from the Minister and the MEC.
Ms Opperman pointed out that councillors were individually and collectively responsible for any unauthorised irregular and fruitless expenditure. She observed that these municipal managers had been there for two years. She asked who was liable for the money paid to the UIF.
Ms Tlou noted that there were municipalities that had dismissed some workers, and those workers had taken the issue to the court and won their case. However, the municipalities did not want to reinstate them. She said that it was being done in Tshwane by the DA. She needed a response to this question.
Ms Xaba-Ntshaba said that if a person was a breadwinner working as an outsourced employee under a certain municipality and then subsequently dies, what would happen to the family of that person, since they were outsourced and not registered.
The Chairperson also commented that provinces had been inconsistent in applying for declaratory orders, and to some extent some MECs had abused it. For instance, the Northern Cape municipalities were actually defying the law but in the Eastern Cape, instead of issuing a declaratory order, the MEC would put municipalities under section 139. He added that there was an issue that this section was also making a provision, instead of applying for a declaratory order, and that some MECs were actually putting municipalities under section 139(b).
The Department said one of the challenges that they had had since 2011 was that the law said within 14 days after the appointment of a senior manager, the municipality must report this to the MEC. Also within 14 days, the MEC should also report this to the Minister. However, what happened was that if the municipality appointed a person who was not in compliance with the Act and the regulations, it would not submit a report to the MEC for about three months. They were not complying with stipulated days, and also the information which was being supplied was not enough for the MEC to make a determination. As a result, the MEC would have to write back to the municipalities to request the information or the documentation that was lacking. By the time it was reported to the Minister, it would probably more than a year. COGTA had identified that as a gap, but with the forum that they had established, they were now following up immediately. They had also delegated an official who would be looking at the advertisements for positions, and monitor the time frames in order for municipalities to comply.
Regarding dismissed staff, those who were below senior managers were a matter for the bargaining council. The Minister could not interfere with the bargaining processes.
On the standardisation of salaries and helping to attract suitable municipality managers, the Minister would issue a notice on an annual basis to determine the salaries of senior managers, together with the cost of living adjustment, which would also include the rural allowance. In the municipalities, if they failed to find a suitable person, the Minister could make a waiver in relation to the salaries of those municipalities so that it could be brought to the level of other municipalities. The Minister had also instructed a review of the salaries of the senior managers. A company had been appointed and had already done some work in the bargaining council, looking at benchmarking the salaries with those in the public and private sectors.
On the issue of monitoring corruption, there was an anti-corruption unit in the Department that worked very closely the Hawks and Special Investigating Unit (SIU). The only problem was that they did not have an investigating authority in the Department, so they had to rely on law enforcement agencies to do the work for them, and then they were given data which they could then present to the Committee. Sometimes cases reported to the SIU took four to five years, and they had not even gone before the courts.
For outsourcing, they had developed what was called a prototype organogram. With the organogram they were finalising, they were not going to have municipalities determining their own organograms. Therefore, the issue of outsourcing would be dealt with when this organogram had been finalised.
On the composition of the selection panels, he commented that the regulations indicated what the composition should be. Many appointments had been annulled as a result of the wrong composition of the panel. What the provincial and National Department had done was to have observer status in those panels in all the appointments of senior managers, to ensure that the municipalities adhere to the correct composition of the panel.
The limitation of political rights applied only to senior managers.
Cultural, Religious and Linguistic (CRL) Rights Commission
Mr Edward Mafadza, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): CRL, started by stating that s15 (1) said everyone had a right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion. Section 18 said everyone had a right to freedom of association.
He said that there were reports and articles in the media which referred to grass-eating, snake eating or petrol drinking, which had led some members of society to start questioning whether religion had become a commercial institution or commodity, and how much peoples’ spirituality and beliefs were being abused. In response, the Commission had decided to investigate and understand further issues surrounding the commercialisation of religion and the abuse of the peoples’ belief systems. They had also decided to identify the causes underlying the commercialisation of religion and the abuse of people’s beliefs.
The reason for the investigative study was so that they could understand the deep societal thinking that makes some members of the society vulnerable with respect to views expressed and actions done during religious ceremonies. Another reason was to assess the legal framework governing the religious sector and its relevance to deal with the prevailing religious challenges.
The findings they made when they did their research were as follows.
- There was no comprehensive database of religious leaders and places of worship.
- There was a high number of unregistered religious institutions.
- There was a high surge in the number of both local and foreign religious leaders.
- The deaths of worshippers who were using faith products and defaulting on their chronic medication were high.
- There was also financial abuse of worshippers, -- threats were directed at worshippers who did not pay the stipulated amount of tithes; pay for a prayer; demands for cuts for successful business deals prayed for; lack of effective financial management and good governance structures.
- Participation of women in these religious practices.
- “Cult-like” religious organisations (The Seven Angels). Some children were not allowed to go to school as the school curriculum was labelled satanic. Worshippers were asked to cash in their pensions, sell their property, hand over their cars and move into the religious organizations' establishment to wait for the second coming. Claims of sightings of the devil.
- Unconventional preaching styles- people being made to eat grass, drink petrol, Dettol, salvation through kissing, religious leaders driving cars and trucks over worshippers, being kept in a deep freezer for up to an hour.
- Lack of training, peer support and understanding of legislation and legal procedures in the registration of religious institutions.
- Lack of a monitoring and peer review mechanism, like in other professions.
Mr Mafadza said that registration of all religious practitioners in the country should be done. The reasons were that it would assist in maintaining a database of religious practitioners and where they operated from and ensure that religious practitioners were vetted against all relevant national registers, such as the child protection and sexual offences registers.
A challenge, however, was that there was an abuse of the visa application system by some foreign religious leaders. Also, the registration of a church as a non-profit organisation (NPO) had many challenges, such as a lack of monitoring. Another challenge was tax evasion by some religious leaders and religious organisations. Also, a number of products were sold for religious /spiritual/traditional healing in the country.
There was, therefore, a need to amend the existing places of legislation in order to protect the congregants and believers.
Ms Opperman commented that the CRL was persisting with pressing for state regulation of religion, despite the fact that COGTA had already rejected its proposal during the June and October 2018 after three days of sittings, and a second objection in February this year from the majority at the religious leaders’ summit. COGTA had recommended that the religious leaders address the issue of this report and suggest alternatives, which they had done. However, the CRL had ignored the submissions and alternative solutions proposed by the majority of faith communities in South Africa. COGTA had also recommended that they develop a code of conduct, which they had done, and it was in its third draft.
She recalled that when they had their first meeting, she had submitted questions and they had written back to her. On the issue of misleading Parliament, she said that the CRL Rights Commission had lied to Parliament. She had this on record from the PMG minutes website. That was when the 2017 annual report was presented, and the CRL had claimed that the majority of religious structures supported the recommendations when they were already in possession of documentation refuting their claims. The previous Committee Member, Mr K Mileham (DA), had said that there should be criminal charges instituted when this came to light in October 2017, and yet their response to her question had been that they had no knowledge of such claims.
She said that there were already two constitutional court cases, in one of it was ruled that even if a belief system was seen as bizarre, illogical and irrational, it was nevertheless protected by the constitution. The right to religion was a human right, and not a privilege.
She said that the version of the 2017 CRL final report had been confusing, because there was a 2016 preliminary report that had drastic proposals. She asked what the Commission sought to do in terms of the law to regulate, and referred to the section of the report where it said the CRL would have the final decision powers regarding disputes and be the final arbiter, and would have the power to deny or revoke registration and licensing, and deal with complaints. She asked if they were seeking to regulate beliefs or expressions of belief, or was it limited to registration of religious practitioners and organisations. She asked if regulation would not contradict the freedom as envisioned by s 15 of the constitution.
She asked the CRL to combat practitioners that acted outside the law and caused bodily harm, rather than limit the freedom of religion of the majority. The Commission needed to distinguish clearly between criminality and freedom of religion.
Since the CRL would appoint those on the peer review mechanisms and ultimately finance them, she asked how this did not amount to state regulation of religion. She also referred to the method they had used to subpoena people during their investigations, and commented that had they invited the leaders, they would not have been insulted. and viewed them as empty religious.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) said that in the sixth Parliament, they need to consider the court’s findings and the concerns of faith-based organisations.
Ms Tlou asked if there was an Act that regulated the churches in South Africa, because they relied on the CRL to see to it that they enforced the regulations. This was because they were now so many unregulated churches that were occupying land to establish their churches unlawfully, and this was a worrying factor.
There was a need to go to communities and inform them about churches such as those which gave people snakes to eat. If they did not inform the communities, they would not know if what they were doing was wrong or right.
She said there were pastors who registered their NGOs, and then came to government to ask for funding in the name of helping poor people. However, behind the scenes, they were taking those funds and keep it for themselves. There was a need for an Act that regulated that.
Mr Hendricks commented that most of the complaints involved the Christian community. He asked why a community like the Muslims should be now viewed under the same microscope.
Ms F Muthambi (ANC) said that the reason they had invited the Commission was because they were new Members, and they just wanted them to brief them on where they were currently. She said they needed to develop a programme of action, together with the CRL, to ensure that all the recommendations as presented in the presentation were implemented. There was a need to bring all important stakeholders together, including traditional leaders, so that they implemented these recommendations. Most of the practices that were happening were foreign practices, and they were dealing with people who, in their own countries, did not do what they were doing here in South Africa. However, the main purpose of the meeting was a briefing, and the questions raised by Ms Opperman should be food for thought, and would also be used to direct them on the next step forward.
Mr Mafadza said the CRL was doing everything they could to ensure that the community was well informed. On the issue of the legislation, the Commission did not deal with that. As Ms Muthambi had mentioned, the main purpose of the meeting was to give a briefing, so there was no need to answer any questions.
The Chairperson said Committee’s role was to ring a bell for society on these matters. They should not blame religion for the problems affecting society. However, when they were talking about religious freedom, that was when they were talking about people and their behaviour. The Committee’s role was to initiate discussions with a view to finding a common solution.
Ms Opperman said there was a need to discuss the way they dealt with religious issues, bearing in mind that religion was also the opiate of the poor. It was a strategy to survive and exist, as it created hope and optimism despite the failed government and economic institutions. Therefore, to tamper with religion was to rob millions of the poor of their only power to transcend these circumstances.
She commented that being a religious leader had to do more with being a spiritual person than it was about qualifications.
Regarding foreign churches, she advised the CRL to take cognisance of the fact that there had been an influx of refugees to the country over the past 15 years which had automatically led to an increase of foreign churches in South Africa.
Mr Ceza said there was a need to do away with the xenophobic narrative of the Commission, which implied that certain religions were being brought in by foreign nationals because all other religions also emanated from foreign lands. The churches were not new, but the behavioural methods were. This issue needed to be dealt with holistically by consulting all relevant stakeholders.
The Chairperson concluded by saying that all denominations must comply when invited to provide input by the CRL. When they were invited to conferences, they must also participate so that their voices were listened to.
Ms Muthambi said that as a way forward, she thought they should have an indaba in Parliament to which they would invite everyone, because this sector was so wide. They were now being asked to submit their budget proposals, so as a forum they could have two to three days to thrash the matter out.
The meeting was adjourned.
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