Pastors cannot just report to heaven on church finances, they need to be accountable to a regulatory body, the chairperson of the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights Communities says.
Thoko Nonhle Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said at the weekend: “When the time comes, they will go to heaven and they will be accountable, but while they are here on Earth, they ought to have a space where they are regulated.”
She added that people often say were called by God to minister to people, and that “the highest place I report to is heaven”.
“You will report to heaven about the doctrine and we are not worried about the doctrine… that’s your business with your God,” said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.
The Commission has summoned 30 Gauteng church leaders including Archbishop Stephen Zondo to present amongst others the church’s annual financial statements dating back to 2012, bank statements, qualifications of priests, their institution of learning and proof of ordination, annual general meeting’s minutes, title deeds and or lease agreements.
The Commission also demands churches’ statement of faith, governance documents, size of congregation – number of families, church ministry regulating authority, church registration documents, whether the church sells god and on what basis, does the church charge admission fee at gatherings, the mechanism utilise to receive income – tithing, investment, contribution and whether services of foreign religious leaders are utilised and do they have work permits, and how payments are made to foreign religious leaders.
A majority of pastors are angered by this, therefore tomorrow thousands of Christians led by Archbishop Stephen Zondo of the Rivers of Living Waters Ministries will march against the Commission.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said churches were registered under the Non-Profit Organisation Act, which stipulates annual financial statements must be submitted, have an annual general meeting and select board members.
“How you spent public funds is of public interest,” added Mkhwanazi-Xaluva. “The annual financial documents are public documents.”
Pastors must also account for the commercialising of prayer water, she said. “If you are buying water for R4 and selling it for R30 after praying for it, are you saying prayer is worth R26? What is your mark-up for prayer, because this water is not for thirst, it’s now holy water.
“Are you saying you have commercialised prayer. When they have a mark-up of over 300% … do they still fall under the non-profit act?”
Zondo and other pastors further said the Commission claimed the South African Council of Churches (SACC) was the complaint against them, but the council has disputed that.
Zondo said: “The commission is waging a witch-hunt against the church under false pretences. We demand the commission furnish us with the complaint against us [it claims is] from the SACC.”
He said the church was given less than a week to appear and delivered voluminous documentation and sensitive information.
Zondo said the church could only present documents “to a proper regulatory or legislative authority”.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said this was akin to questioning Public Protector Thuli Madonsela for “demanding the Nkandla report because she is not a regulatory body”, although she was a Chapter 9 institution. She said the Commission is also a Chapter 9 institution.
Zondo said they will shall march in “our thousands to voice our displeasure and issue a stern warning that should this matter not be resolved amicably, the church will demonstrate its full might. We demand respect and dignity from the Commission in line with its Constitutional mandate”.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said she was very curious about staging a march in protest against furnishing the Commission with “their annual financial statements. Why is it a crisis for you unless you have something to hide. If they were registered as a PTY or something, I would understand and they would be paying tax.”