The African Transformation Movement (ATM) has criticised Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s tweets on imposing taxation on independent churches.
In a statement on Monday, the party said Mboweni’s tweets are “irresponsible and controversial.”
On Friday last week, the Minister tweeted, “Any ideas about how to impose taxation on these mushrooming handy clappy, snake eating ‘Churches.’ The time to tax them is now!!”
‘Funny ones must be closed down’
In another tweet, he added, “If these so-called independent churches operate as businesses, then they must pay tax. The funny ones must be closed down, period.
“We are a law-governed country. This thing of taking advantage of our people must stop. They won’t do this kind of thing in RWANDA!”
However, the ATM said it understood “independent churches” to refer to “African Indigenous Churches that were marginalised by the Western missionaries when they founded the South African Council of Churches (SACC), which imposed a Western doctrine upon all churches.”
It added that these indigenous churches have been practising African spirituality, which it said the SACC frowns upon as “devil/idol worshipping.”
ATM said indigenous churches played a role in the fight against apartheid, including providing “spiritual assistance” to uMkhonto we Sizwe and the Azania People’s Liberation Army (APLA) members.
It said, “We note the Minister’s tweets as careless and derogatory. The Minister cannot class African Indigenous Churches with the recent trendy churches that force people to practice foreign methods of worship, such as eating grass and snakes.
“We see this as an attack, not only on churches that practice African spirituality or are Messianic in nature, but an attack on the pillars that work tirelessly to restore peace and dignity in communities.
“As such, we are calling for the Minister of Finance to publicly withdraw his statements and focus his attention [on] ensuring the unfortunate SONA tabled by President [Cyril] Ramaphosa has merit and detail, as he is about to deliver the budget speech of 2020.”
Mboweni’s tweets echo similar calls made in the past by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) to regulate churches.
It repeated its calls in February 2019 when a video emerged showing Pastor Alph Lukau of the Alleluia International Ministries “resurrecting” a member of his congregation.
The Commission chairperson, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, said at the time, “Over the next five years we will push for the regulation of religious practitioners. Parliament must do what it needs to do. There must be some control.”
However, political parties such as the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) opposed the Commission’s calls.