JOHANNESBURG,Religious leaders and institutions operating in South Africa must be registered and pay taxes like any other business in the country and foreign nationals wishing to open churches in South Africa should undergo a strict vetting process.
These are some of the recommendations contained in the final report of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) following its investigation into the commercialization of churches in South Africa.
The investigation followed reports of unconventional practices by some church leaders, included congregants being made to eat grass, snakes and sprayed with pesticides.
According to the CRL Rights Commission, there are no official figures of how many religious leaders and institutions exist in the country. A number of vulnerable people, especially women, are falling prey to strange and unconventional methods employed by some religious leaders in the name of spiritual healing.
CRL Rights Commission Chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva says the commission wants to end all of this. If Parliament accepts our proposals as they are we can assure the nation on one thing, the circus will be over. If this is implemented as is with no changes, you will see serious changes in this country and there will be peace and order, she adds.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva says religion is a big business and religious leaders should also pay tax. SARS (South African Revenue Service) should do an in-depth investigation into possible tax evasion by some religious leaders and religious institutions in partnership with the CRL Rights Commission. One of the religious leaders said, ‘You know, to run my ministry I need a million rands a month to keep this thing going’. So, you are talking about good business there.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva says police too need to play their role and enforce the law without fear or favour. What we discovered is that the police are very reluctant to act against religious leaders. We will be writing to the Minister of Police, asking him to intervene because you can’t lay charges in 2015 and nothing has happened.
She says there are serious gaps in the systems of the Home Affairs (Interior) Department in that those claiming to be religious leaders from outside South Africa can practise their faith without producing the necessary documentation and this tends to create tension between the local religious leaders and those from outside South Africa.
The Department of Home Affairs should ensure that the foreign religious leaders applying for a work permit is based on a quota work permit like all the other professions. They are not going to take 5000 brain surgeons into the country. They’ve got a quota system for the work permit. This should apply here as well. They will have a letter of recommendation from the CRL Rights Commission, she adds.
Commission Deputy Chairperson Professor David Mosoma wants laws regulating the religious sector to be tightened like in other countries. In other countries, they have a stringent regulatory framework where certain tendencies are not allowed by an act of that area. So, we have become permissive as a nation to allow everything which is why our ordered environment is in shambles in many respects. That lawlessness must stop.
The commission’s report has been handed over to Parliament for further action.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK