SAPRA lodges complaint against CRL Rights Commission with COGTA
The South African Pagan Rights Alliance has lodged the following complaint against the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
The Honourable Mr Richard Mzameni Mdakane
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Parliament of Republic of South Africa
Formal Complaint against The ‘Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural‚ Religious and Linguistic Communities’ – Commissioner Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.
Denial of access to participation of religious minorities on consultations concerning the CRL Rights Commission’s proposal to regulate religion in South Africa.
In 2015 the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (the CRL Rights Commission) launched its investigative study into the commercialisation of religion and abuse of people’s belief systems.
The CRL Rights Commission proposed that all religion and religious organizations in South Africa should be regulated by legislation. According to section 18 of the Commission’s report:
“• The Religion must have a Religious Text that has a defined origin or an origin proved so ancient that no one alive can remember the true origin.
• The Religion should have a significant number of followers that believe in and that adhere to the tenets of the faith.
• Religious peer review committees must represent the whole religious community and not just a portion of the religion.
• A General Religious Practitioner, being a person that imparts knowledge of the tenets of the faith to a gathering of worshipers, shall be required to obtain a license to operate.”
On behalf of Pagan religious leaders, this Alliance wrote to the CRL Rights Commission in February 2016, requesting to be recognised as an interested and affected party to all future discussions, relating to the Commission’s investigation into the commercialisation of religion and abuse of people’s belief systems, and its proposal to license religious leaders and regulate religion in South Africa.
It must be noted that submissions in objection to the CRL Rights Commission’s proposal to regulate religions and religious leaders were submitted to the Commission in October 2017 by both the South African Pagan Rights Alliance, and the South African Pagan Council.
Receipt of these submissions were not acknowledged by the Commission, our organisations were ignored, and Pagan religious leaders were not canvassed for our opinions on the proposal.
On 14 July 2017 an article entitled ‘Pagans and Christians oppose CRL commission’s ‘state capture’ of religion’ published by Christina Pitt, elicited response from the CRL Rights Commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, on why Pagan religious leaders were not included in consultations on this important process.
The Commissioner is reported in the article to have stated: “The participants in the hearings were part of a random sample. Only religions which were broadly represented at a percentage above 3% were part of the hearings. So in this case, size did matter,” she said. “Their views were already canvassed,” said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.”
Note that at no time has the Commissioner ever spoken directly with this Alliance on this matter, and the CRL Rights Commission has never canvassed the opinion of The South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA), or any Pagan religious leaders, on the proposed regulation of religion before it!
This Alliance has consistently been denied access to the democratic process, and was not informed of, nor invited to participate in the Religious Leader’s Summit hosted by Rhema Church on February 13.
The South African Pagan Rights Alliance, and the South African Pagan Council, have also been expressly denied access to attend the National Consultative Conference on February 25 and 26, 2019.
This Alliance is disappointed by Commissioner Mkhwanazi-Xaluva’s stated decision in July 2017 to ignore minority religions in this important consultation process.
Minority faiths will, after all, also be affected by the proposal to obligate all religious leaders and religions to submit to state regulation. Pagans have a constitutional right to equality and to equal representation in matters which affect us and our religious communities.
The CRL Commission must protect, promote and defend the right to equality for all religions, not just those who have a majority. Indeed, our Constitution expressly seeks to protect and promote the rights of minorities.
The Commissioner must be seen to be performing the functions of her office in good faith and without prejudice.
This Alliance will argue that the Commissioner has instead voluntarily chosen to dismiss participation by religious minorities who opposed her recommendation to regulate religion in South Africa.
At no time has the CRL Rights Commission acknowledged the right of Pagan religious leaders to participation, and the Commission has repeatedly decided that we are not relevant to ongoing discussions on this matter.
The CRL Rights Commissioner has failed in her statutory obligation to uphold sections 4(a) to (c) and 15(1)(a) of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Act.
Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Act
4. The objects of the Commission are-
(a) to promote respect for and further the protection of the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities;
(b) to promote and develop peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance and national unity among and within cultural, religious and linguistic communities, on the basis of equality, non-discrimination and free association;
(c) to foster mutual respect among cultural, religious and linguistic communities;
15. Conduct of members
(1) A member of the Commission –
(a) must perform the functions of office-
(i) in the spirit of furthering peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance and national unity among and within cultural, religious and linguistic communities, on the basis of equality, non-discrimination and free association;
(ii) in good faith; and
(iii) without fear, favour or prejudice;
The Commissioner has demonstrated clear bias through her intention to deny religious minorities the right to be heard on this matter.
As a consequence of this denial of equal access to a religious minority to (1) participate in a democratic process of consultation on matters which will affect its right to exist, and (2) published grievous misrepresentation of the facts on this matter, this Alliance herewith submits a formal request to Parliament to investigate the Commission’s actions on this matter, and to remove the current Commissioner from her position.
Section 17. (1) A member of the Commission may be removed from office, but only if a committee of the National Assembly finds the member guilty of misconduct or rules that the member is incompetent or incapable of performing a member’s functions, and the National Assembly, in accordance with section 194(2)(b) of the Constitution, adopts a resolution calling for that member’s removal from office. (CRL Act)
This Alliance wishes to reiterate that it seeks to participate in good faith in any and all consultations and negotiations concerning the CRL Rights Commission’s proposal to regulate religions in South Africa.
This Alliance reserves its right to equal access to the democratic process.