Parliament, Friday, 18 June 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has afforded the Department of Cooperative Governance, the National Disaster Management Centre and the CRL Rights Commission to respond to pertinent questions raised by both the religious community and Members of the committee on the impact of the national disaster management regulations.

The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Faith Muthambi, said the committee is committed to upholding the values of inclusiveness enshrined in the Constitution, particularly Section 9(3), which states that the state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including religion and belief. “Parliament represents the voice of the people and we are prepared to hear everybody irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, ethnic origin, age, religion, belief, culture, or language,” emphasised Ms Muthambi.

Last night’s meeting follows an engagement the committee had with religious leaders on Tuesday on the impact of the national disaster management regulations. Religious leaders told the committee that the government does not consult the religious community on Covid-19 regulations. The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, told religious leaders that regulations are for the entire country and are not sectoral.

She said the national executive is responsible for the implementation and management of a Cabinet decision. “The department asserts what Cabinet has decided and which is on the basis of scientific data and there can be no different dispensations for different sectors,” added Dr Dlamini-Zuma. She said decisions on Covid-19 regulations are determined on the basis of increase and decrease of Covid-19 infections.

Minister Dlamini-Zuma assured religious leaders and the committee that there should be proper consultations before decisions on regulations are taken. She said the government consults the South African Council of Churches, which is believed to represent the religious community. She advised religious leaders to put forward any legitimate representatives for the religious community to the national executive to amend the list of the representatives that are there currently.

The organisations that are consulted according to Minister Dlamini-Zuma, include the South African Council of Churches, the Southern African Catholics Bishops’ Conference, the Muslim Judicial Council, African Council of Independent Churches, Charismatic Independent Churches, African Traditional Faiths, the South African Traditional Faiths and the National Interfaith Council of South Africa.

Religious leaders told Minister Dlamini-Zuma that they are targeted by police and experience police brutality at churches and when they conduct funerals, on the grounds of enforcement of adherence to Covid-19 protocols by the police. They said the police do not enforce adherence at funerals of politicians and kings. They said that creates a very bad impression that the national executive believes that religious gatherings are the only potential sources of coronavirus infections and called for the stoppage of police brutality at churches and funerals.

The onstitutionality of certain sections of the Disaster Management Act was under the spotlight of the meeting of the committee and religious leaders. There were questions on Section 54 of the Act that spells out that the section must be referred to the National Council of Provinces for consideration at a certain point in time before its implementation. The committee will follow that up and the other matter.

Ms Muthambi called for further engagement on the issue of consultation and the implementation of regulations. “These issues are not simple, they are complex and need an open mind and honest engagement. We need to have a follow-up meeting,” added Ms Muthambi.


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