Low budget prevents religious rights commission from protecting citizens

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CAPE TOWN, October 30 – The chairwoman of cultural and religious watchdog, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, on Tuesday said an inadequate budget prevented the commission from fulfilling its mandate of protecting citizens from exploitation by religious leaders.

Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on women in the presidency on the abuse of women and children by religious leaders.

“This budget is not enabling us to do what the constitution tells us what to do. We have been told before here that we must go and fundraise from the churches who have money. How do we go and ask for money from the same churches that we are supposed to be monitoring?” she asked. “These churches have money because they exploit the same poor people that we, as the commission, should be saving.”

In recent years, South Africa has been rocked by a number of instances where congregants have been subjected to abuse and ill-treatment at the hands of religious leaders and pastors. Congregants have been sprayed with doom and fed snakes in some churches, while sexual abuse of the young and vulnerable is also rife.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said the commission’s R49 million budget was insufficient and needed to be reconsidered by the national treasury so that they would be able to build proper systems that would regulate the religious sector and protect vulnerable congregants from exploitation.

“We are planning on public awareness campaigns to make this country better and we hope that Parliament will assist us. But how do we organise a campaign that would maybe cost R20 million when we have a budget of only R49 million. We have been engaging with the national lottery commission to support us financially so that these public awareness summits can actually be seen happening,” she said.

– African News Agency (ANA)