South Africa’s Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) has threatened a jail term for Chris Oyakhilome if his church, Christ Embassy, fails to release its financial records.
Several controversial religious leaders could also face prison if they do not adhere to the demands of the Commission.
Commission head Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told News24 she had already asked the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to advise on their next legal course of action.
“We are forced to take the legal route because some of them are not complying and we cannot be held [to] ransom by a few,” she told News24.
The Commission is investigating the commercialisation of religion and the abuse of people’s beliefs. It has summoned several religious organisations to appear before them.
All those summoned to the hearings were required to produce their ordination certificate, the church registration certificate, bank statements and the annual financial statements dating from 2012.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said they were also looking at possibly filing charges of intimidation against some of the religious leaders who have threatened the commission publicly.
“Some of these religious leaders will face prison if they do not comply and we have been clear about our course of action. Some religious leaders have also threatened the commission, which is leading us toward the legal route. Saps have been notified already,” she said.
She said she could not understand why some pastors who took money from their followers were now unable to provide the commission with financial records.
“These people take money from people. What are they doing with that money? We want to know. We will not back down,” she said.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said Christ Embassies Pastor Chris Oyakhilome had indicated that he would fight the commission in court before he released his records.
“If he intends on that route, we are ready. He will have to face the same fate as the others who refuse to hand over their financial records,” she said.