SABC News - CRL Rights Commission recommends taxing for religious leaders:Wednesday 12 July 2017

CRL Rights Commission recommends taxing for religious leaders

Wednesday 12 July 2017 11:55

Thabile Mbhele

CRL Rights commission chairperson, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva(SABC)

Religious leaders and institutions must be registered and pay tax like any other business in South Africa. And foreign nationals wishing to open churches in South Africa should undergo a strict vetting process. These are some of the recommendations contained in the final report of the CRL Rights Commission following its investigation into the commercialisation of churches in South Africa.

The investigation followed reports of unconventional practices by some church leaders which included congregants being made to eat grass, snakes and sprayed with pesticides.

According to the CRL Rights Commission - there are no official figures of how many religious leaders and institutions exist in the country. A number of vulnerable people, especially women, are falling prey to strange and unconventional methods employed by some religious leaders in the name of spiritual healing.  

However, CRL Rights commission chairperson, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, says they want to end all of this.

“If Parliament accepts our proposals as they are, we can assure the nation with one thing that the circus will be over. If this is implemented as is with no changes you will see serious changes in this country and there will be peace and order.”

She says religion is a big business and religious leaders should also pay tax.

“SARS should do an indepth investigation into possible tax evasion by some religious leaders and religious institutions in partnership with the CRL Rights Commission. One of the religious leaders said you know to run my ministry I need a million rands a month to keep this thing going, so you are talking about good business there.”

Mkhwanazi Xaluva says police too need to play their role and enforce the law without fear or favour.

“What we discovered is that the police are very reluctant to act against religious leaders. We will be writing to the minister of police asking him to intervene because you can't lay charges in 2015 and nothing has happened.”

She says there are serious gaps in the systems of the Home Affairs Department in that those claiming to be religious leaders from outside South Africa can practice their faith without producing the necessary documentation.  And  this tends to create tension between the local religious leaders and those from outside South Africa.

“The Department of Home Affairs should ensure that the foreign religious leaders applying for a work permit is based on a quota work permit like all the other professions. They are not going to take 5000 brain surgeons into the country, they've got a quota system for the work permit. This should apply here as well. They will have a letter of recommendation from the CRL Rights commission.”

Deputy commission chairperson, Professor David Mosoma, wants laws regulating the religious sector to be tightened like in other countries.

“In other countries they have a stringent regulatory framework where certain tendencies are not allowed by an act of that area. So we have become permissive as a nation to allow everything which is why our ordered environment is in shambles in many respects that lawlessness must stop.”

The commission's report has been handed over to Parliament for adoption.  

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