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Durban - Faced with the perceived threat of regulation, leaders of charismatic churches in KwaZulu-Natal have rallied to establish an alliance that would fight against external control they fear will interfere with the running of their churches.

This came after the Commission for Protection of Religion, Culture, and Linguistic Communities launched a nationwide study to probe the commercialisation of religion and culture, and exploitation of people through capitalisation on their beliefs.

The independent pastors will meet on Thursday at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban where the commission’s study will be the prime topic. The acting chief executive of the commission, Edward Mafadza, will be part of the meeting and is expected to present the purpose of the study, which he hopes will put the pastors at ease.

Among the requirements the leaders are uncomfortable with is proposed regulation, the demand that they release financial statements to the commission, and the alleged exclusion from the study of large churches like the Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe).

Speaking to The Mercury on Wednesday, Pastor Trevor Shezi of the Christian Life Centre in Umlazi, said he partly agreed with what the commission was trying to achieve, but was also concerned that any form of regulation could get in the way of the church.

“What we are proposing is self-regulation. There must be a body which will be endorsed by the government but that is peer-review.

“The establishment of the study by the commission is because of our fault. As the church we have failed to self-regulate, but we are doing it now. If we do not want to self-regulate, the government will regulate us.

“The objectives of the alliance address the concerns of the commission. That includes accountability and code of conduct. Also advice on capacity building, legitimate registration, finance management and admin.”

Shezi said the alliance would produce a document that would be presented to the commission and influence its recommendations.

He said whatever regulation the commission recommended, it would have to be a self-regulation committee with people from within the church.

“The Health Professions Council of South Africa is regulated by specialists in health. That is how church regulation must also be done.”

In terms of financial statements, Shezi said they disagreed with the requirement that they submit such paperwork because they were already making submissions to the Department of Social Development and Sars, where they were registered as non-profit organisations.

“Churches are registered under the NPO Act which falls under social development and they also register at Sars as Public Benefit Organisations. That means every year, if you are an NPO, you send statements to social development and Sars for accountability.

“That is not the job of a commission; it is the job of Sars.”

Shezi said appearance before the commission was not a problem because they were conducting research, “but really you cannot force me to produce documents”.

Mafadza said the commission was aware that churches were already submitting financial statements to social development and Sars, but the commission needed to “contexualise” the study.

The Mercury

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