Our culture should not kill us, says Zweli Mkhize
Cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Zweli Mkhize has spoken out against "unacceptable" religious practices such as ukuthwala and forcing people to drink hazardous fluids.
"Cultural practices should be undertaken in a safe manner that doesn't put lives at risk. Therefore we should deal with unacceptable practices in some churches," he told a two-day consultative conference hosted by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (the CRL Rights Commission) in Pretoria.
Mkhize called on the CRL Rights Commission to investigate incidents of abuse in the name of religion and culture.
"We should unite in condemning acts such ukuthwala [forced marriages] which are being practised in the name of culture.
"When girls are abducted, beaten up and taken forcefully away from their homes, there can't be anything cultural about it," Mkhize said.
"If it's the culture, it should not be painful. We have to take action against those issues. All cultures should protect children, women and the vulnerable."
He said his department was working closely with traditional leaders to find ways of curbing deaths of initiates, particularly in the Eastern Cape.
"In the last season we had over 35 deaths. Cultures should serve to strengthen and not destroy communities.
"We must work together to stop any form of death. If it's our culture, it shouldn't kill us."
He also denounced charismatic preachers' bizarre practices.
South Africa has been rocked by serious allegations of sexual and physical abuse in some churches, he noted. "The country has seen people being sprayed with aerosols, forcing people to drink fuel or eating grass. All these practices need to be stopped.
"Society as a whole must unite to protect people from any abuse. Such abuse is an infringement of people's rights to worship or practice their religion.
"The names of upright leaders of faith and reputable religious institutions get unnecessarily tainted by charlatans who take advantage of our people when they are most vulnerable."
He called on delegates at the conference to come up with a proposal on how religious institutions should be protected.