Commission reaffirms role in protecting religious rights

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pretoria - The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission) says its role of fostering social cohesion remains relevant as democracy continues to grow in South Africa.

Speaking at the opening of the three-day national consultative conference organised by the CRL, commission chairperson Reverend Wesley Madonda Mabuza said it was incumbent upon them to develop peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance and national unity amongst cultural, religious and linguistic communities.

“It is now almost 20 years since we voted for a radical change in our country… The commission is one of the institutions supporting democracy.

“Its mandate is to make sure that democracy manifests itself in all aspects of the life of South Africans,” he said.

Mabuza said the commission faced many challenges in its attempt to fulfil its mandate of engendering cohesion and nation-building within the country.

“We would be seriously deluded if we thought that changing the face of South Africa was going to be a walk in the park. The pace of change in the world is fast, regardless of what we say or do.

“The challenge is how to promote and protect the rights of cultural and religious communities in such a way that South Africa does not find itself going back to ‘group interest’  at the expense of other communities.”

The chairperson said once in a while, sectional interests became more dominant to the extent that other communities felt excluded. He said such incidents were an opportunity for the commission to drive its message home.

“As South Africans who have had highly divisive experiences, we should not be afraid to make our differences known so that there can be the coming together of minds,” said Mabuza.

South Africa allows all religions to exist as they wish, provided they act within the Constitution. This is to prevent a scenario where groups went into war over religious differences.

Mabuza said there were still communities who felt marginalised because they were not part of mainstream religions. However, he said most South Africans had gained awareness of their language rights and were beginning to make demands for better recognition.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi told delegates at the conference that the CRL Commission was important to help all cultural and religious groups in the country to have a sense of belonging.

“We believe that it is through a commission such as this one that South Africa will lead as an example, that we will not experience a genocidal mass slaughter similar to the one which happened in 1994 in Rwanda.

“There is no specific Republic for a particular community; it is the Republic of South Africa for all of us. As South Africans, we belong together and this country belongs to all of us who live in it,” said Baloyi.

The theme of the conference is “Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights in South Africa:  Twenty Years into Democracy”. -