Parliamentary committee challenges CRL on ‘reckless’ statements

A briefing this morning by the CRL Rights Commission to the COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on the Ngcobo killings (PHOTO: FOR SA).

By Freedom of Religion SA

Media statements by the chairperson of the CRL Rights Commission, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, claiming that parliament should answer for the Ngcobo shootings and that lives could have been saved if parliament had acted sooner, were challenged today by the COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.

At a briefing meeting between the COGTA committee and the CRL over the Ngobo incident the committee took issue with Mkhwanazi-Xaluva’s statement that parliament knew that the Seven Angels cult was a “ticking time bomb” and did nothing about it, and challenged the CRL to point out when and where specifically this was brought to the committee’s attention.

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No apology
Despite a request from various members of the committee that the CRL retract and apologise for their statements, which various members of the committee described as reckless and unfortunate, no such retraction or apology was made.

Instead, the CRL (after consultation with the new Minister of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Zweli Mkhize) proposed that the discussions around the regulation of religion be re-opened before the COGTA committee.

The CRL chairperson said: “We want to come back and say to COGTA why parliament’s recommendations will not work.”

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva’s proposal did not seem to find favour with the committee which indicated that, while they are always open for discussion, there was no need to rehash the same issues which had already been discussed at length with much public input.

‘No budget’ for conference
In response to DA MP Kevin Mileham’s question whether the CRL has taken any steps to implement what the COGTA committee has recommended, including particularly the convening of a national consultative conference for religious leaders where a code of conduct for religious communities could be developed, the CRL said they did not have the budget for it, but that they assigned a commissioner to look into international codes.

In response to a further question regarding the CRL’s stated intention to approach the Constitutional Court for a declaratory order regarding the constitutionality of the CRL’s recommendations for the regulation of religion (as proposed in their Final Report on the Commercialisation of Religion and Abuse of People’s Belief Systems), and what the status of that application is, the Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said: “The lawyers are still working on it. We have gotten legal advice, but are also consulting other parties in terms of whether our recommendations are constitutional or not. So, we are looking at other avenues”.

Adv Nadene Badenhorst of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) who attended this morning’s briefing, commented: “It is curious that the CRL cannot afford a National Consultative Conference for Religious Leaders as proposed by the vast majority of religious organisations and recommended by COGTA, yet has enough money to institute expensive litigation in the Constitutional Court which will no doubt be opposed by various parties.”

The briefing concluded with the CRL chairperson reiterating that the statements by the CRL were “unfortunate, because it forced the Parliamentary Spokesperson to say something”.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo had previously, and in response to the CRL’s finger-pointing at parliament, stated that Mkhwanazi-Xaluva’s comments “demonstrated poor understanding of the constitutional mandate of Parliament and its relations with the Commission”.

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