Religious leader 'pleased' with high court ruling on CRL hearing

The High Court has forced the CRL to allow journalists to attend hearings.

CRL Chair Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva briefed media on outcome of proceedings. Picture: Masego Rahlaga/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - One of the religious leaders subpoenaed by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL), says he has more confidence about testifying because the hearing will now be in public.

Yesterday, the High Court in Johannesburg granted an application by the Sowetan newspaper, forcing the CRL to hold the hearings in the open.

The commission had refused to allow journalists to attend the hearings, saying that would prevent complainants from giving evidence.

Grace Bible Church Bishop Mosa Sono says he is pleased he can now give testimony in public.

"I think it is a very important development because I think it's only fair for people to get to know what it going on there. So that people can engage with that process as it goes on along and I don't think anyone can be misquoted."

Sono says this will make it easier for him to testify.

"I feel more comfortable because I think if people know what is going on and hear what we say and are being asked, they will be in the know of the church's standing."

While the Sowetan's attorney Otrabia Mpofu-Anti says the court clearly believes the commission was wrong.

"The court also granted a cost order against the commission because of the fact that they effectively pushed the media into a position where we were compelled to go to court."

She says the commission refused her client's refused her client's access to the hearings but then did not oppose their application.

"They did not state any reasons for not opposing and that calls into questions why, if in indeed, there was a substantive reason, they were not prepared to come to court in order to defend that reason."

The commission is expected to respond to this ruling later today.

Religious leaders have also complained they received a summons from a sheriff, rather than simply being invited to the commission.

The commission says it's investigating the alleged commercialisation of religion, after a preacher fed snakes and petrol to his followers.