An investigation by the Commission for Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) into the commercialisation of religion has angered respected church leaders in Gauteng who recently received summonses ordering them to attend hearings or face a year behind bars.
The CRL has subsequently apologised to the church leaders reports Eyewitness News (EWN) but commission chair, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, says leaders have been consulted.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told EWN: “Summons tend to agitate people, but I must say that when people appear before us they might come in agitated; we have tried to send a second set of documents to assure people.”
The hearings, which have now been postponed until November 16, are to investigate the commercialisation of religion and the abuse of people’s beliefs after videos showing pastors from different churches making congregants drink petrol and eat snakes. The commission wants leaders to present documents including annual financial statements dating back to 2012, bank statements and proof of ordination.
Initially church leaders were told, incorrectly, that the CRL subpoenas issued to them followed complaints by the SA Council of Churches (SACC). This added to their displeasure around the issue. The error has since been clarified. In fact the SACC complained to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) about pastors Lesego Daniel Mosuoe and Penuell Mnguni, who were allegedly feeding people petrol, grass, snakes and rats, with Mnguni allegedly repeatedly jumping of on top of people. The HRC then referred the complaint to the CRL Commission for attention.
Pastor Lesego Mosuoe and Archbishop Stephen Zondo appeared before the commission on Tuesday (November 3), while Prophet Paseka ‘Mbhoro’ Motsoeneng sent his legal team to represent him, reports EWN.
Archbishop Zondo, of the ‘Rivers of the Living Waters’ church, says he will comply with the commission and hand over all the required documents reports EWN.
“The CRL apologised and they assured us that there was no crime committed by us.”
The CRL investigation raises concerns about possible church regulation and threats to religious freedom. Next week Gateway News will publish an in-depth report on the issue and the implications for the Church in South Africa.