Forty churches have been summoned to come before the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL).
The commission announced in August that it had launched an investigation into the commercialisation of churches and will focus on, among other things, the abuse and exploitation of people’s beliefs.
CRL Chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told The Star newspaper in August that they were conducting the investigation in an attempt to understand the commercialisation of churches.
“When churches start selling pap, T-shirts and water after services . . . or when people stop taking their HIV or blood pressure medicine because traditional healers say ‘drink my water, it will heal you’ – and charge people for it, it becomes problematic,” she told The Star. She added that they did not want to regulate religion, but needed to look at some of the things some religious leaders promise churchgoers.
The investigation comes in the wake of public outrage after Pastor Penuel Mnguni fed his congregants snakes and rats at his church in Soshanguve.
Mnguni, from End of Times Ministries, came under scrutiny after several media outlets reported on his controversial practices. Apart from feeding people snakes and grass, Mnguni also rode on their backs as though they were donkeys.
He is one of the pastors the commission has received complaints about.
“One of the Complainants was the South African Council of Churches, SACC, (whose complaint was referred to us by the South African Human Rights Commission),” Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.
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“The SACC complaint was specifically against Pastor Lesego Daniels of Raboni Ministries, and Pastor Penuel Mnguni, both from Pretoria,” a statement from the commission states.
The commission has summoned a number of religious leaders whom they believe can help with their investigation. The leaders include prophets, priests and leaders from the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, African Traditional Religion, Rastafari, and Bahá’í faiths.
“The Commission has decided to set up a Section-7 Committee and then issue summons to ensure that witnesses appear before this Committee of the Commission, and that they bring all documents as outlined in the summons,” the commission said.
Religious leaders who fail to appear before the commission, or fail to bring the required documents needed to further the investigation will be held liable, and face either a fine or a jail sentence.
The first round of hearings were held in KwaZulu-Natal between 14 and 15 October, and the second round will be held between 3 and 8 November in Gauteng.