Chairperson of the CRL Commission Thoko Mkhwanazi Xaluxa during a media briefing on Thursday at their offices in Johannesburg. Xaluva said parliament was told that the Seven Angels church was dangerous and a tragedy waiting to happen. PHOTO: Lindi Masinga/ANA
Johannesburg - The blame game over last week's horrific Engcobo massacre raged on as a constitutional body tore into Parliament for not acting swiftly on the "cult" at the centre of this tragedy.

Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, the chairperson of the Commission for the Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), on Thursday asserted that lawmakers were warned last year that a "time bomb" was about to explode at the Seven Angels church in the Eastern Cape.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva was reacting to last week's harrowing assassination of five police offices and a civilian at Engcobo police station.

Seven members of a gang believed to have carried out this brutality were shot and killed by elite police forces at the "cult-like" church last week.

Three of the seven brothers involved in the church were killed, where 10 other suspects were arrested and appeared in court on Monday.

Over 100 girls and women believed to have been sex slaves were rescued during the raid, some of whom were as young as 12 years old.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, who was briefing media in Joburg, emphasised that Parliament was warned about Seven Angels because people were selling their goods, cashing in their pensions and giving it to the church before joining and living at the church.

"We knew money would run dry (at the church) and, when money runs dry, it's going to be problematic. Seven Angels was an accident waiting to happen; a time bomb waiting to explode," the chairperson contended.

She added that lawmakers were told that legislation should be drafted and enacted to create a "peer-review mechanism", which is akin to independent professional bodies or an ombudsman office, in order to regulate the religious sector.

"If you can license someone, you can take away their license," Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said, adding it was the religious sector's responsibility to weed out errant churches.

She hit out the members of the portfolio committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs for rejecting the commission's recommendations, which included the fact that "religious communities [should] regulate themselves more diligently to be in line with the constitution and the law".

Kevin Mileham, DA MP and member of the committee in question, told The Star on Sunday that he rejected Mkhwanazi-Xaluva's views on Parliamentary failure that led to last week's massacre.

Mileham said the brutal killings and alleged sex slavery "was a criminal matter and not a religious one".

The MP said the committee felt that the regulation of religion would infringe on people's constitutionally enshrined right to freedom of religion.

Parliament also rebuked Mkhwanazi-Xaluva for her statement, with s pokesperson Moloto Mothapo  saying Parliament would, at an appropriate time, engage with the chairperson in this regard.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said the commission would be approaching the Constitutional Court in due course to get a declaratory order on whether their recommendations to regulate were unconstitutional.


The Star