Pretoria - The national watchdog on religious practices in South Africa, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights (CLR), on Thursday said it had begun a mediation process to bring the Shepherd Bushiri-led Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church and the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) to the negotiating table.
"After extensive deliberations, the parties agreed on the following - the immediate cessation of all hostilities from both sides, the CRL Commission will pursue negotiations with the church for possible support for the bereaved families," said spokesperson Mpiyakhe Mkholo.
The parties also agreed that a follow-up press briefing be arranged where "further announcements" will be made about the support process
Sanco was given time to consult and update its constituency regarding the ongoing mediation.
"The CRL Rights Commission reiterates its call for the full enforcement of the by-laws in the country," said Mkholo.
Three women were killed in an apparent stampede at the ECG church, which is hosted at the Pretoria showgrounds, during a service on December 28. Nine other congregants were injured as they ran for shelter during a heavy rainstorm.
The three deceased women were identified as Patricia Pringane, Matshila Sarah Mohlala and Lehlogahlo Maria Segodi.
The Sanco protests began last week, with the community members calling for the ECG church to be expelled from the Pretoria showgrounds forthwith.
On Thursday, Sanco Tshwane regional chairperson Abram Mashishi told the African News Agency (ANA) that the mediation meeting had brought the parties under one roof, but the negotiations were still ongoing.
Bushiri's spokesperson, Maynard Manyowa, said the ECG welcomes the recommendations of the CRL Commission, and was committed to the mediation process.
"We would like to express gratitude to the entire commission and representatives of Sanco who attended the mediation [meeting]. We remain committed to engaging any and all stakeholders in the country," said Manyowa.
"We totally regret the death of Nondumiso Patricia Pringane, Matshila Sarah Mohlala and Lehlogaholo Maria Segodi and again reiterate that we remain a ministry in mourning. We are committed to ensuring we support members of the family."
Earlier on Thursday, Christians of South Africa (Cosa) criticised Sanco over its attacks against Bushiri.
"These misguided attacks against the church by Sanco is evidence enough to prove that faith in South Africa is under attack and Christians should prepare themselves for a volcano of persecution, perpetuated by the ANC government," Cosa president Pastor Derick Mosoana said.
"South Africa is not immune to stampedes and it is only normal that in every uncontrolled crowd a stampede is unavoidable. South Africans died during soccer matches and concerts but none of these agents of satan ever lobbied support against the affected artists or soccer teams."
African News Agency (ANA)