South Africa summons church leaders in probe over bizarre rituals

By: PETER DUBE

Investigations into activities and finances of churches in South Africa continues with the summoning of religious leaders.

The leaders and their institutions are under scrutiny following recent revelations of bizarre rituals and commercialisation of churches.

The Cultural, Religious and Linguistics Commission is probing what it calls the commercialisation of the gospel and the abuse of people’s faith.

It is concerned that the mushrooming of churches and traditional healing institutions could leave many gullible citizens bankrupt, injured or killed.

WORSHIPPERS TOLD TO EAT LIVE RATS

Some of these institutions go to lengths in attracting followers, including placing advertisements in daily papers, radios or TV stations and promising an array of miracles.

Pastor Lesego Daniels, the man famed for making his followers drink petrol and eat live rats and snakes a few months ago, is among the leaders summoned.

The commission’s chairperson Thoko Mkhwanasi-Xaluva said investigations would look into how religious institutions were being run, where their funding went, how much was collected and by who, what the money did and what the governing principles of the institutions were.

PLEDGE CARDS

Few churches have already been questioned about their financial practices, particularly the controversial pledge card system.

“If you die in the interim then your family must pay. You know it is happening. I am not creating this thing and we must admit that it is the worst form of commercialisation anyone can be involved in,” Ms Mkhwanasi-Xaluva said.

She said the commission believed church officials were misusing the card pledge system.

“That is an issue of discipline in the church, it definitely has to do with discipline,” Methodist Church of Southern Africa General-Secretary,Charmaine Morgan said.

The commission would also want to know if there are regulations one has to follow before starting and running a religious institution.

Pastor Daniels from the Rabboni Centre Ministries defended his actions, saying members of his congregation were healed and received deliverance from eating grass and drinking the petrol.

“You see it as grass or petrol but when it is in the church, it has been declared holy communion. It is all about faith. People got healed and delivered. I am doing this while under the control of the holy spirit,” Pastor Daniels said.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION