Onus was on CRL commission to go to police over Ngcobo church - For SA

27 February 2018 - 10:36
By Timeslive
The church where suspects were hiding has been a source of concern to the community for years. File photo.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali The church where suspects were hiding has been a source of concern to the community for years. File photo.

Freedom of Religion South Africa (For SA) is questioning why authorities did not alert law enforcement if they were aware of the "ticking time bomb" that culminated in the killing of police officers allegedly by members of the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministry cult and the subsequent shootout at their “church”.

The organisation said the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural‚ Religious‚ and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) has responded to the killings at the Ngcobo police station by saying that‚ if Parliament had given the Commission the power to regulate the religious community‚ the deaths could have been prevented.

"However‚ the Department of Social Development of the Eastern Cape alerted the CRL to the cult as far back as 2016‚ after the Department had rescued 18 children from the cult‚" it pointed out.

According to CRL chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva‚ she subsequently visited and interviewed cult leaders‚ and as a result had “serious concerns” that this was a “high risk” and a “ticking time bomb”‚ said For SA.

"In the circumstances‚ the CRL was evidently aware - in 2016 already – of the cult’s criminal and/or potentially harmful activities‚ and had the opportunity to alert SARS‚ SAPS and other law enforcement agencies to their concerns‚ ranging from dubious financial dealings to child trafficking.

"Had the CRL reported their concerns to the law enforcement agencies at that stage already‚ the incident could potentially have been averted." For SA said the CRL should explain to Parliament "why they failed to take the necessary action they are empowered to take in terms of the CRL Act‚ to report these criminal and otherwise unlawful activities which they clearly had particular knowledge of".

Under the CRL Act‚ For SA noted the CRL may “bring any relevant matter to the attention of the appropriate authority or organ of state‚ and‚ where appropriate‚ make recommendations to such authority of organ of state in dealing with such a matter”.

"If any of the cult leaders had wilfully hindered or obstructed the Commission in conducting such an investigation‚ they would have been guilty of a criminal offence possibly facing up to a year in prison for this alone . . . It is therefore clear that Parliament had already given the CRL both the power‚ and laid on them the duty‚ to deal with such matters."

For SA said it agreed with parliamentarians deliberating on the CRL’s Report on the commercialisation of religion last year that crimes that should be dealt with by the proper application and enforcement of existing laws‚ rather than regulating religious organisations.

Five police officers and retired soldier were killed in Ngcobo on February 21 2018. Here’s what we know so far about the massacre.