‘Churches cannot be spaza shops’

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Churches cannot be spaza shops (informal convenience shop business in South Africa, usually run from home), selling holy water and prayers for a profit, the CRL Rights Commission said yesterday. “In the charismatic sector, you start up and report to no one, you report to heaven. If I have a calling tonight, by tomorrow I can buy a tent and a sound system, I can call myself a bishop, a prophet, whatever – and I’m good to go,” Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xalavu, chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) told News24.

“It can’t be like that when you have access to vulnerable people.” There were cases of water and T-shirts being sold which, if drunk or worn, were promised to cure diseases like HIV and Aids or high blood pressure. “If you want the pastor to pray for you, very well, then deposit R2 000 before I start praying.”
Mkhwanazi-Xalavu said the commission was investigating such practices with the intention to make recommendations to Parliament for changes in the law. At the moment, religious bodies were governed by the same legislation as non-profit organisations. This was problematic because the administration of a soup kitchen and that of a church earning millions were simply not comparable, she said.

The commission’s investigation was initiated following a flurry of complaints, including one from the SA Council of Churches, against pastors Lesego Daniel of Rabboni Ministries and Penuel Mnguni. Daniels encouraged his followers to eat grass and drink petrol. Mnguni got his congregants to eat live snakes and rats. — News24.

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