We feel powerless - CRL on Seven Angels Ministry

2018-03-01 16:13
Community members attend a ceremony to honour the Ngcobo victims. (Ziyanda Zweni, Daily Sun)

Community members attend a ceremony to honour the Ngcobo victims. (Ziyanda Zweni, Daily Sun)

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Johannesburg – The CRL Rights Commission says it knew something "horrible" was happening at Seven Angels Ministry in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape, but added that it felt powerless.

Speaking to reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday, chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said she had previously said, if nothing was done about it, people were going to die.

"In this instance we prayed we were not right. We prayed it was wrong," she said.

"We knew that the end was near since the (church) money was going to run dry. We feel powerless, we feel marginalised... we feel we are lost."

On February 21, attackers entered the Ngcobo police station, situated between Mthatha and Queenstown. Five policemen and a soldier were killed.

Two days later, seven suspects were shot dead and 10 others were arrested at the church following a shootout with police.

READ: Ngcobo massacre: Suspects tried to 'fight their way to freedom'

The church is led by seven Mancoba brothers, Xolisa, Thandazile, Banele, Philile, Phuthumile, Benjamin and Ephraim Mancoba – following the death of their father in 2015.

Three of them were among those killed.

'An accident waiting to happen'

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said after their investigation, they ran a workshop in Parliament on June 27, 2017, where they red-flagged the Seven Angels Ministry.

She added that they gave Parliament recommendations and told them that there was danger at the church.

"We knew something horrible would happen there if nothing was done to monitor them... but we had no powers to deal with it. We could only rely on legislation being fast tracked."

She said people were selling their personal possessions and taking their children to go live in the church.

The church prohibited children from going to school, she added.

"We knew that money would run dry and we knew there was going to be a problem.  It was an accident waiting to happen," she added.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said there were more churches like Seven Angels Ministry. They were monitoring a few in Limpopo.

She said they wanted some regulatory framework to be put in place.

'Not about the church'

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva also added that they would approach the highest court in the land for a declaratory order to determine whether religious regulation was within Parliament's constitutional mandate.

Parliament previously released a statement condemning Mkhwanazi-Xaluva's comments.

On Saturday, Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told City Press that Parliament should answer for the Ngcobo shootings.

This was after the commission proposed that an extensive national structure, to license (and thereby control) every 'religious practitioner' and 'place of worship', be established, she said.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo replied that Mkhwanazi-Xaluva's comments, which called for religious regulation, "demonstrated poor understanding of the constitutional mandate of Parliament and its relations with the commission".

In response, Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said that it was "unfortunate" that Parliament had "chosen this slant".

"They are doubting the constitutionality of religious regulation so we will go to the Constitutional Court to obtain a declaratory order," said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.

READ: CRL Rights Commission to go to ConCourt after Ngcobo massacre

"This is not about the church, this is about individuals, and the court will determine whether regulation is within the constitutional framework."

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said she had interviewed the church leaders in 2016 during her investigation into church practices and made the parliamentary committee aware of her concerns.

"We raised an issue of urgency specifically related to the Seven Angels in June last year. Parliament only dealt with our recommendations last week," Mkhwanazi Xaluva told News24 at the time.

"If you don't move with speed, there will be death. They were sitting on a ticking time-bomb."

The CRL Rights Commission has also been slammed by Eastern Cape MEC for Social Development, Nancy Sihlwayi.

The department rescued 18 girls from the Seven Angels Ministry two years earlier.

A few days after the church became a crime scene, Sihlwayi told SABC that the CRL Rights Commission had "blocked" her department from investigating the state of affairs at the ministry.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva denied the allegations and said that Sihlwayi was "not telling the truth".

Read more on:    crl rights commission  |  ngcobo massacre

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