Religious leaders tell CRL they will sort out their own problems

Pastor Larry Matlala speaks from the floor at the national religious leaders’ summit in Randburg, yesterday.

More than 800 delegates attended a historic, national summit of religious leaders at Rhema Church, Randburg, yesterday to address the need for a self-regulation process to prevent religious abuses.

The vast majority of the leaders represented the Christian church, with most of the major denominations, independent and indigenous structures well represented.

The event was first announced by the CRL Rights Commission in October last year when they appointed Pastor Ray McCauley to lead this meeting in his role as co-chair of the National Religious Leaders Council of South Africa, an inter-faith structure set up under the Zuma presidency.

Advocate Nadene Badenhorst, legal-counsel, for Freedom of Religion SA (FOR-SA) and FOR SA executive director Michael Swain at yesterdays summit.

Many Christian leaders were wary, ahead of the summit, because although the recommendations in the CRL’s report on the “Commercialisation of Religion and the Abuse of People’s Belief Systems” were rejected after extensive discussions and submissions to the COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, the commission continued to target the Church, in particular, with a view to imposing some form of state regulation on the faith sector.

The CRL’s approach has caused serious concern because of the threat posed to the constitutional right of freedom of religion, conscience and belief.

More than 800 delegates attended the gathering.

These concerns were reinforced in the opening address of yesterday’s summit by CRL Chair Mrs Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, who warned church leaders that if they failed to take on the responsibility of dealing with the issues identified in the CRL’s Report, the government would take over.

Threatening tone
She further cautioned the delegates to “look what has happened in other countries” where this has taken place (and where serious erosion of freedom of religion has occurred). Many of the delegates immediately expressed strong opposition to both the procedural irregularities that marred the organisation of the summit, as well as the threatening tone of the CRL.

The end result was an overwhelming consensus that the religious community do not want any further engagement with, or input from, the CRL on this matter.

“The religious community has made it clear that they have taken ownership of the process and that there is a firm commitment to address the issues raised by the CRL,” said FOR SA Executive Director Michael Swain. “We believe that government would be well advised to take note of the sentiment of the religious community, and to allow it the time and space to resolve the issues in this area without further intervention.”

The meeting resolved that it would not be held hostage by the timelines prescribed by the CRL. Instead, the task team who lead the meeting will be augmented by others with a view to implementing a broad-based and consultative process at local, provincial and national levels to develop solutions by and for the religious community.

The meeting was favourably inclined towards a greater level of accountability in the form of some kind of self-regulation and potentially a Code of Conduct to which religious organisations may subscribe.

FOR SA believes that yesterday’s developments mark a significant and positive step forward and thanks those who participated in the meeting, who we strongly encourage to continue to engage with and support the process leading up to another 3-day Summit in or about October 2019.


  1. Hugh G Wetmore

    This seems to have set the right direction. Jesus and His apostles predicted there would befalse prophets who lusted for messianic power (Matthew 24:24) and thought that “godliness was a means of financial gain (1 Tim 6:5). Jesus who had all power in heaven and earth did nothing to stop this. The apostles used no external force to control it. Instead they warned against being seduced by these false prophets. Joshua 24:15 left the choice to the people. If we institute State thought-police we attempt to do what Jesus and the apostles never tried to do … and it won’t work anyway. The State must convict those who break its laws (sexual harrassment, ssault, murder, drugs, trafficking, fraud, money-laundering etc), and not try to control individual religious consciences.

  2. There are already systems in place in SA for the accreditation and accountability of religious leaders and Christian Pastors. This accountability and standards for feeding the flock need to be administered strictly so as to maintain the fruit and stewardship of the Church in and around SA.

  3. Dr Ryan Sooknunan

    There will always be false teachers all over the world in all beliefs. According to biblical scriptures and the reality of the born again experience, scriptural interpretation and the Christian experience cannot be experienced and interpreted by those have not committed themselves to a living relationship with Christ. The bible clearly tells us that the preaching/teaching of the gospel will be taken as foolishness in the context of understanding. I am for accountability, the church must be registered, the books well maintained. If the church is selling stuff then tax must be paid etc, however regulating religion will never be successful. the practice of religion is our constitutional right as long as there is no violation of human rights and or any violence, criminal activity or harm to any person whatsoever by any means. If this occurs then SA has all the facilities already in place for criminal prosecution etc etc…for instance spraying doom, drinking petrol, driving a car over a person, snakes etc are health and safety risk so the relevant authorities must deal severely with this issue. Rape, abuse of women, child abuse is a criminal offense and the police must deal severely with these. We have structures already in place, it needs to be enforced. The church must elect inter dominational ethics, conduct, moral body that must be given full authority to look into false practices that is against biblical requirements which must deal with the false prophets. People from foreign countries must be clearly vetted and cleared by the home affairs. When application is made to open a church by foreign nationals there must be a procedure of reference checks and verification. The authorised body must have the authority to discipline, correct and suspend operations of churches that go against or conduct gross immoral or unbiblical practices in the name of Christ..these are some of my suggestions

  4. We reject, not only the regulation of the church / religion by government, but also the so-called “peer review” or “self-regulation”.

    If it is not broken, do not fix it


  5. Bishop Msimbithi Dlomo

    Praying for this country and the church of Jesus Christ.