FOR SA echoes call for commission of inquiry into Ngcobo massacre

2018-03-12 19:49
Wilbarforce Zongezile Nobetha, whose brother left home almost 20 years ago with his wife and child to join Seven Angels Ministry, says he met his brother's children for the first time on Monday through social workers after the church became a crime scene (Daily Sun, Ziyanda Zweni)

Wilbarforce Zongezile Nobetha, whose brother left home almost 20 years ago with his wife and child to join Seven Angels Ministry, says he met his brother's children for the first time on Monday through social workers after the church became a crime scene (Daily Sun, Ziyanda Zweni)

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Cape Town - Citizens are entitled to follow their beliefs, but are not free to break the laws of South Africa in the process, as has happened with the case involving the Seven Angels Ministry, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) said on Monday.

FOR SA said it supported the call by the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights Commission (CRL Rights Commission) for the institution of a commission of inquiry into the tragedy in Ngcobo on February 21, when five police officers and a soldier were gunned down.

The Seven Angels Ministry, which locals described as a cult, has allegedly been implicated in the attack.

"This weekend, further shocking reports emerged that girls as young as 12 years old were being used as sex slaves by the Seven Angels cult leaders. It is important to understand how such a tragedy could have happened - especially given the evidence that various state institutions, including the CRL, were aware of the cult's illegal activities since 2016, but that no action was apparently taken to prevent further wrongdoing or harm," FOR SA said in a statement.

"The CRL chairperson, Mrs Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, was quick to point out that currently, there is no law to prevent anyone from starting a cult in South Africa.  The CRL's position is that, if they had been granted the power to license - and therefore control - all religion and religious activity in South Africa, cults like the Seven Angels would never exist."

City Press on Sunday reported it had learnt that the CRL Rights Commission was meeting to table a resolution for a commission of inquiry with Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize on Monday, and on Friday the commission would reportedly meet with Limpopo police, where six possible cults have been identified.

READ: How Ngcobo cult kept its sex slaves

Unknown attackers entered the Ngcobo police station, between Mthatha and Queenstown, on Wednesday, February 21, and shot and killed five policemen and a soldier.

A subsequent raid at the Seven Angels Ministry left seven people, suspected to be involved in the murders, dead.

Three Mancoba brothers, who were the church's leaders, were among those killed.

Several young girls and women were rescued from the church.

According to City Press, the church leaders had at least 40 "wives" and one who was just 12 years old, who were groomed from young to be willing sex slaves.

ALSO READ: 'He was my king, I worshipped him,' says accused about church leader

FOR SA said expecting any criminal organisation, such as the Seven Angels cult, to abide by the laws of the country, was ludicrous.

"This is why law enforcement exists – to enforce the existing laws that already make illegal activities, illegal," it said.

"FOR SA, together with the vast majority of South Africa's faith community, opposed the CRL's request that it be granted the power to be 'the final arbiter of religion' - as proposed [in the] CRL's final report - because it is contrary to the fundamental right to religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.

"Section 15 of the Constitution assures everyone the right to believe and to practise their beliefs, and the Constitutional Court has further ruled that, even if such belief is 'bizarre, irrational or illogical', it is nevertheless valid and protected under law.
 
"Even if Parliament had agreed to limit these fundamental rights by adopting the CRL's recommendations and, in the highly unlikely event that a criminal organisation such as the Seven Angels would have applied to the CRL for licencing, the existing laws - which makes practices such as keeping sex slaves, and keeping children from school, illegal - would still have to be enforced.  

"And since the lack of enforcement of existing laws doubtless contributed to the tragic events at Ngcobo, it remains clear that the root of the problem is a lack of capacity or will to enforce existing laws, not because there is a legal deficiency."

Read more on:    crl rights commission  |  crime  |  ngcobo massacre  |  religion

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