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Don’t go without solid policies Part 1

Don’t Go Without Solid Policies in Your Organisation

Part I: Gender and BEE

Devan Moonsamy

 

A sound policy structure in the workplace is an insurance blanket against many common problems. It protects both employer and employee. But having a great policy will make no difference if personnel are not aware of it. They should be expected to know, understand and follow its guidelines and rules.

Not all employees have the time to go through policy documents, however, and it can be tedious reading. The best thing to do is to give employees a summary of the policy. They can be asked to sign in agreement with the policy, which will encourage them to get to know its provisions well.

What works even better is to train employees on the policy, for example, by putting them through a workshop. This need not be a dreary affair. In fact, it can be really fun if approached in the right way and if it focusses on how the policy benefits the employee. The right facilitator can ensure staff understand but don’t feel overburdened by the new policy provisions.

This is a very effective preventative measure which ensures employees know exactly what is expected of them and what their rights are.

People often focus a lot on what went wrong, especially reactively after a problem arises, such as a nasty incident between co-workers. But telling staff what they can and should be doing at work beforehand is more effective than just giving them a long list of what they can’t do. This helps them focus on being productive and getting along rather than worrying about how they might slip up.

Teaching and emulating good behaviour is also vital. Management sets the standard of behaviour. Employees never know everything they need to when starting a new job. There’s always things to learn, and it is extremely effective when one is taught the right behaviour as early on as possible.

The policy document itself is a critical backup. Staff members trained on key organisational policies can more firmly be held to account. If it’s in writing and it’s the company’s official stance on the matter, it makes it easier to handle problems in a mature, organised way. Risk Management planning has already been conducted and communicated by means of drafting and disseminating the policy, and training staff on it.

When staff are properly educated and trained, it greatly eases management’s concerns over their behaviour. What kinds of policies are important to have in place for South African businesses? In this first article we will look at two critical policies to create and train your employees and co-workers on.

Gender Equity Policy

The plight of women and girls in South African is an open secret. Everyone knows it is happening, but it remains well hidden. Nevertheless, the facts speak for themselves: women and girls are often in a difficult and subordinate position. They may have little say over their salaries, which jobs are open to them, and even over their very bodies.

Google recently got into serious trouble over pay inequities between male and female employees. The problem is severe enough that the US Department of Labour filed a lawsuit. Google tried to gloss over the problem, but experts quickly identified weaknesses in its approach, particularly in that it left out 11% of employees in an official gender-pay analysis.

PR Risk Management must not wait for disaster to strike. It can happen now by having good provisions in place which prevent these kinds of injustices. South African companies likewise must practice equal pay and benefits for equal work to redress the wrongs of the past.

Women also need to have an equal chance of being hired, promoted and trained. Women should not be seen as only fit for and kept in positions of ‘admin lady’ or ‘maid’. They must be invested in because they make great workers and very strong, effective and just leaders.

Women need to be heard in meetings, and they shouldn’t be expected to work harder than men just to be noticed or stuck under a glass ceiling. All this must be addressed in a gender equity policy document which HR and other staff members are well versed in and follow closely.

BEE Policy

This one goes without saying in South Africa, but staff do still need to understand what the company stance is with regard to BEE and why, and they must be monitored in following it. As Brand South Africa explains, ‘Black economic empowerment (BEE) is not simply a moral imperative… It is a pragmatic growth strategy to realise the country’s full potential by bringing the black majority into the economic mainstream.’

Various BEE provisions should be contained in the HR and recruitment policy, and the procurement policy. These include prioritising people of colour as much as possible in hiring, promotions, and buying decisions. A whole lot of black workers and a few white managers is still seen in some businesses. This must be addressed in binding policy to commit the company to equity measures. What specific BEE provisions do South African organisations have in place? A few helpful examples are given below.

Ithala Development Finance Corporation has in its BEE policy the provision that some contracts be sub-divided. This opens opportunities for black-owned SMMEs which may not yet have sufficient resources and staff to offer the most comprehensive services.

The Department of Trade and Industry emphasises that there must be active participation by black people in an enterprise for it to be considered as really following BEE principles.

Barclays Africa explains that it actively invites black-owned suppliers to participate in sourcing procedures. This has successfully helped the company to engage in business with more BEE companies.

NMMU’s policy makes BEE a key function of all managers. The University also measures the successful implementation of BEE in its employee performance assessments.

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi from Bowman Gilfillan notes that there is ‘No empowerment without skills.’ Skills development for all staff should be included in policy to meet BEE requirements.

The Shoprite Group/Checkers takes a very proactive approach by assisting new suppliers with creating barcodes and packaging so their products can be sold in stores. Every five years the employment equity plan is reviewed, and new targets are set to guide progress.

As a public company, Murray & Roberts has worked on its shareholder diversity, which now includes 59.53% black shareholders and 17.13% black women shareholders.

Besides these two key policies, companies should draft a disability policy, harassment and abuse policy, and have a training policy in place as well. We will look at these policies in detail in my next article on this topic. The organisational values, mission and goals are also commonly found in the first policy documents drafted, but don’t stop there. Draft additional policies with management input so as to protect the company and its employees. Proactively disseminate the most important policy messages using posters, emails, awareness drives, workshops, and training.

ICHAF is a training provider with years of experience in upskilling staff. We are ideally placed to conduct workshops and educate your staff on policies that will benefit all involved and protect the company from many PR and labour-related risks. Let us show your staff the way to boost their career and the company’s image through best practice policies.

Training for Success in Corporate Gender Relations

In the wake of recent sexual assault and harassment allegations that have swept through Hollywood, and increasingly other industries as well, it is vital that we examine why it is that gender relations in the workplace is a topic that still carries a certain taboo with it. In an age of disruptive technology, widespread information dissemination and an upending of many traditional power  structures, why is it that we are loathe to speak openly about the ‘silent sexism’ that remains an ingrained part of corporate culture?

Here we examine the gender status quo, why gender is relevant in corporate training, and how it can be approached to build healthy workplace relationships.

The position of women in the workplace has come under scrutiny through the recent outpouring of sexual assault allegations against many prominent individuals. Women breaking their silence against powerful men has been termed the ‘Weinstein Effect’, after the high-profile film producer who is alleged to have preyed upon over 140 women. Such seismic occurrences have radically impacted public awareness and found resonance in mainstream culture through the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. In turn, this has focused attention on the asymmetrical power dynamics that emerge as a result of gender disparity in the workplace.

Late last year, 60 women brought a class-action lawsuit for gender discrimination and disproportionately lower pay against Google. In December 2017, it was rejected because the judge decided that a class action is not permissible in this case. However, a number of women are still pursuing legal action. They contend that Google violated California’s Equal Pay Act, among other offences, and Google themselves have also reported that less than a third of their employees are women, and a mere 9% are not white. A US HIMSS study found that, over the period of a decade, women’s salaries have actually been shrinking in comparison to men’s. It may be that men receive raises more often than women, in addition to them being paid more. Microsoft has been in court more than once for much the same reasons as Google and, before some of us were fully over the parties welcoming in 2018, Uber was ordered to paid out millions for discrimination suits. How can it be that such technologically advanced companies are so behind on gender equity? We assume that these companies will be leaders in such areas as well. This illustrates the insidiousness of silent sexism. A concern has even been raised that, if employers and employees of tech companies are bias in any way, their algorithms will be too. We use Google and its products all the time, but can we really trust it as a neutral search engine on every topic?

 

What further complicates the matter and presents itself as something of a conundrum, is that a certain level of acceptance often accompanies even blatant sexism, as evidenced by the election of the current US president  – who, in spite of allegations of sexual harassment levied against him, managed to clench victory in the 2016 elections. The seemingly little effect on Donald Trump’s popularity and presidential prospects is emblematic in that it points towards a normalisation of predatory behaviour and a negation of the trauma that many women suffer having been exposed to discrimination and the resultant actions that stem from this.

While obstacles exist to universal equality, it is imperative that businesses strive to safeguard against sexism through actively promoting open dialogue, thereby fostering organisational harmony and guarding against staff attrition. An important way of achieving this is by employing training and techniques that can educate and empower staff members. Gender sensitisation is part of diversity training programmes and is aimed at closing gender gaps. Striving for mutual understanding in workplace relations is a crucial part of this. Fortunately, sensitisation can be taught in the training space through exercises and discussion. For example, qualified facilitators will draw out individual views and concerns of members of a new team, establishing understanding and a strong foundation for future interactions. Hypothetical examples and role play can also be used to teach acceptable behaviour successfully.

The Feminist Paradigm

An important foundation for diversity training is a thorough exploration of feminism; looking at what all feminist thought entails, as well as debunking the many misconceptions that surround feminism. As Sakhumzi Mfecane, Professor of Anthropology at UWC, says, ‘Feminism has done more than any other paradigm to enlighten us about the society in which we live, which is not only gender-unequal, but also in terms of race and class.’ Prof. Mfecane further states, ‘Feminism talks about bringing about a society where we are all treated for who we are and not our gender.’

In doing so, feminism addresses the needs of both communities and individuals; including the economically disadvantaged and other marginalised groups – highly relevant for CSR. Importantly, diversity training can draw awareness to the lived experiences of others and in doing so help to create a culture of tolerance and fair treatment.

>> To be aware of generalizing and speaking for a collective experience (statements highlighted in blue)

I think that this last bit below needs to sharpened up and condensed. Maybe just decide on three main points and then end on a strong note, something along the lines of: it is of utmost importance for the societal change that is currently occurring to be represented in the workplace and for corporate culture to exist as an inclusive space, which values individuals on merit as opposed to gender.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Everyone needs to be trained on gender dynamics, particularly managers who can, in turn, foster a culture conducive to the success and growth of all.  It is also essential that employees, especially women, feel safer and free to advance in their careers.  Likewise, employees can thrive in their careers by learning what is acceptable behaviour, rather than committing offences in the midst of respected companies. Establishing ground rules and conducting group training early on is highly effective in preventing sexism. Prudent executives can put in place safeguards, for example, by instructing employees that sexual advances should not occur at work.

As part of its training programmes, ICHAF offers gender sensitisation for organisations. ICHAF programmes foster mutual understanding among employees and seek to solve the problem of sexism by establishing what behaviour is expected and appropriate in the professional environment. However, we are committed to doing more than this. Diversity training is usually about learning about cultures, languages, traditions, etc., but this has very limited effect. Our programmes go much further. We target the individual psychology of discrimination and appeal to trainees to reconsider their own beliefs and biases as the root causes of discrimination. This is a much more effective route to countering the problems of sexism, racism and more.

Classism in South Africa: What’s happening in our shops?

Classism in South Africa: What’s happening in our shops?

The UN states that ‘Poverty is both a cause and a product of human rights violations.’ In some countries, such as India, the class system is so rigid and extreme that some people are treated as ‘untouchable’. There have been calls to end the system, but it is so ingrained that it will likely take generations to overcome. When those of the lower classes go shopping, others will not take money or orders from them directly. On a recent visit to India, whilst out shopping one day, I watched in horror as a “low class” customer had to put her money down on the counter first and wait for the upper-class shopkeeper or attendant to get around to serving them. How tragic that this is still happening in societies today, was my initial reaction. This prompted me to explore what is the situation exactly in South Africa? This article takes a look at the issues of socioeconomic status and customer service.

In South Africa, systematic discrimination against people who are considered to be of a ‘lower class’ is less common, but it still happens. The caste system in India has been likened to Apartheid in South Africa. The laws of Apartheid are gone from our legal system, yet we know that racism still appears in practice, and the treatment of anyone who appears poor (and non-white, sadly) is not the same as those who are middle-class or rich (and white). It is sad that such socioeconomic discrimination still happens, and that it is related to colour. These factors intersect in context to affect the way individuals are treated as customers.

It is perhaps more subtle but, for example, are customers profiled according to economic status when they walk into stores in South Africa? Some experiences would indicate that this does happen. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough about the problem because 95% of South Africans who have a bad experience while shopping do not complain (Jones, 2017). Thus, more data is needed.

However, there is anecdotal evidence revealing the types of reactions people can expect. One woman describes her encounter at a store in Edenvale, Johannesburg, selling goods typically bought by middle and upper-class people. She noted that there were no prices on any of the goods, not even for the ‘bargain bin’. The salesperson first asked her which car was hers parked outside. She replied, ‘Why do you want to know?’ He said he was just curious. She went through the store, looking for a few things with the salesperson tailing her every step of the way. She felt uncomfortable, and frustrated that she had to ask for every price: ‘Every time I asked, he went off into the back, and he came back with a number he didn’t seem sure about. It was confusing. I couldn’t compare prices because I couldn’t remember them all. I am sure he just made it up based on what he thought he could get out of me.’ This does seem strange. Surely there should be one price for everyone? And everyone should receive the same treatment.

She later told a friend about it who said they had a strange experience at the same shop as well. For the friend, who drives a more expensive vehicle, it seems the prices were high, but she wasn’t aware it was related to that at the time. The friend also said they made a huge fuss over her, but it only made her uncomfortable. What sort of treatment would a person receive if the salesperson knew they were struggling financially and just browsing? We need not wonder. A person who appears homeless or very poor will likely be treated in a way that presses them to leave. They will be watched very closely for fear of their stealing, but not be given assistance, while a person who at least appears middle class may be given some attention.

In South Africa, what people in poor communities do complain about more commonly is the government’s lack of interest in service provision including healthcare. This is certainly a more serious problem. The vast majority of service provision protesters are black, and many are poorly educated and unemployed. Service delivery is so bad that protests have become frustrated, aggressive and even violent. Although we are increasingly affected by class notions as opposed to race, the two intersect. There is a small black elite, but the majority remain poor and in the lower classes. The organisation which should be the least prejudiced (the government) in serving its customers (the public) seems to be the most disinterested in serving its poor customers. Struggling with employment, a low level of education, and a darker skin converge as factors placing millions on the very bottom of the priority list. Having a low socioeconomic status, some people have promises of better service made to them in exchange for votes. Of course, the services don’t materialise because those in poverty are not taken seriously by the government.

Many companies, especially the large chain stores which fill our malls, like Vodacom stores and Pick ’n Pay, serve all customers much the same. This is at least a step in the right direction. They have poor customers, but maybe it doesn’t matter because there are many of them. Big food stores especially have little need to discriminate because everyone needs to eat. Where luxury goods are sold and at upmarket restaurants, staff do seem to treat people according to their dress, manner, personal effects, age, etc. Yet looks can be deceiving. People with money don’t always dress in Prada. They may go for a ‘hippie’ look. And they don’t enjoy being pandered to constantly, especially when it is insincere and they know others won’t receive the same treatment. People with less money may still take extra pride in their appearance. It’s never a given.

Some in government have been keen to follow a more customer-service oriented model taken from the private sector which is having greater success. If this means treating everyone equally or prioritising the most urgent cases as necessary, it is the model for us all to follow, including in the more luxury goods market.

 

 

References

Jones I (2017) The real cost of losing customers. Think Sales. From: https://www.thinksales.co.za/the-real-cost-of-losing-customers (accessed 15 March 2017).

UN (n.d.) Vulnerable people: People living in extreme poverty. From: http://www.un.org/en/letsfightracism/poor.shtml (accessed 15 March 2017).

Abuses in Our Places of Worship

Rights commission formed to investigate abuses in SA religions

In 2015, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (the CRL Rights Commission) began its investigation into the commercialisation of religion and other abuses happening in religious organisations in South Africa. Their investigation report was submitted to Parliament in June 2017. The report states, ‘Recent controversial news reports and articles in the media about pastors have left a large portion of society questioning whether religion has become a commercial institution or commodity to enrich a few’ (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 4). This article looks at abuse and corruption in churches, particularly in so-called Christian churches.

It is thus not surprising that the Commission encountered resistance from religious groups that did not want to discuss how they are being run. Some religious groups are self-regulating and strive to adhere to high moral standards. They have better reputations. As a result, the Commission did not investigate certain religious groups, but focused on those which were raising red flags.

Legal expert adviser to the Commission, Shadrack Gutto (2017) explained that our South African Constitution ‘provides for the rights of people belonging to a religious community to enjoy their religion and “to form, join and maintain religious associations”, but not “in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.”’ This is the critical aspect – we have many freedoms, but they must not trespass on the rights of others and go against laws protecting all parties in various aspects of social, religious and economic life. In some cases, religious leaders are unpaid volunteers, and others receive a modest living so that they can devote themselves fully to the faith and to helping people. Many religious leaders choose theology out of a strong desire to help others. However, the too close association between money and some religious leaders is troubling.

Gutto (2017) further says, ‘The idea that the words, revelations and instructions from the gods, whatever they may be, are above the Constitution and laws of the country is promotion of theocracy that, sooner or later, may turn into movements similar to that of past crusaders and present-day fundamentalist groups.’ This can lead to dangerous situations. The Commission warns against extremism and its report details examples of this in South Africa. At the hearings, one person said, ‘The church wants to give us money. These devils [the commissioners] are standing in our way’ (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 25). Enquiries into how churches are run were thus sometimes very unwelcome and the Commission met with considerable resistance.

The commissioners noted that pastors arrived at the hearings in very expensive cars and even had a number of bodyguards, as though they were celebrities. There appears to be a commercialisation of religion, particularly a form of ‘Christian consumerism’ or, in some cases, obvious exploitation. Some groups sell blessed items such as holy oil for moderate (R40) to exorbitant (over R1,000) prices. Certain groups work only in cash for obvious reasons. Promises of fixing personal problems are made in exchange for payment. One woman was asked for R250,000 to help her have children (CRL Rights Commission, 2017). There is still a worryingly popular saying in Africa that, ‘If you want to make money, start a religion.’ Dr Motshine Sekhaulelo (2014), a researcher in theology in South Africa says that, ‘By promoting false hope about the prospects for overnight success through prayer and tithing, some of these churches take advantage of a vulnerable congregation that is often desperate for an improvement in their economic circumstances.’

Jacobs et al. (2014) explain how a type of ‘bidding’ system for blessings is conducted. An amount is named by the pastor who asks people to come forward for a special blessing if they have it. In one example given, this was over R6,000. The pastor then reduces the amount and people come forward as they can, depending on how much money they have and how much they want the special blessing (Jacobs et al., 2014). This obviously shows favouritism for the rich, but places pressure on all the congregants. It creates the belief that only by paying the pastor or church can they be blessed which is contrary to the teachings of Christianity. A number of Jesus’ teachings show that this is unchristian, including the story of the poor widow pointed out by Jesus (see Mark 12: 41-44).

 

Why the Commission was formed

The religious sect in the Eastern Cape called ‘Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries’ was actually the reason the CRL Rights Commission’s investigation was started. The leaders told followers to take their children out of school because the Devil was controlling schools and a disturbing reason for this was later revealed. At the Commission’s hearing early in 2016, they said that education is wrong and that it was Nelson Mandela who allowed education to be taken over by the Devil. The leaders also said that they are angels, not people (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 21-22). This is obviously very extreme, but it was only the beginning of this story.

A leader of Angels Ministries explicitly stated that our Constitution is driven by Satan (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 21). So they feel they are above the law, and their actions clearly show this. The leaders kept women and girls between the ages of 12 and 21 as sex slaves, and there were over 100 of them (Pather, 2018). Likely this is what happened to the female children who were taken out of school. This constitutes serious abuse by religious leaders of their most vulnerable followers, particularly the underage girls who were kept in shacks and not allowed to go out. They were finally freed by police in February 2018, but this could have happened sooner (Pather, 2018). The Commission warned authorities as they could see this particular cult was dangerous and major problems were afoot. Angel Ministries started to run out of money, and seeing themselves above the law, they stole weapons from the police, probably intending to use them in robberies, and they were involved in ATM bombings as well. A shootout with police followed and a number of people were killed including five police officers (Pather, 2018).

Although the Hawks began a criminal investigation, the CRL Rights Commission has lamented their not taking stronger action sooner. Commission Chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said they made Parliament aware of their concerns about the cult, but no strong action was taken: ‘This has been a ticking time bomb. We said either these people are going to commit suicide or something else will happen… No one listened to us. This could have been avoided’ (Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, quoted in Pather, 2018).

This illustrates just how far people can be manipulated in relation to religious beliefs. Considering their findings, Chairperson Mkhwanazi-Xaluva also said ‘we cannot have a sector that is not regulated’ (Pather, 2018). Regulation of religious organisations is important because of such exploitative practices. Practices by religious organisations may sometimes be more subtly abusive while others may not necessarily do any harm to followers. Goods such as holy oil or religious texts sold at a low price do not seem particularly problematic. It can be instructive or serve a purpose in helping some people feel secure in their faith, having something tangible to hold onto, while also ensuring that the organisation can maintain its buildings and so forth at a decent standard.

 

‘Pastorpreneurship’: Do jets and Jesus go together?

Nevertheless, some practices can go against the spirit of faiths such as Christianity when they are marketed in a commercial way to people as a ‘cure’ for all their problems, and when it brings in undue profits used by church leaders to maintain an extravagant lifestyle. Jacobs et al. (2014) note that, at one time, churches ‘offered scholarships, gave free books and teaching aids… food, clothing and shelter to those deprived of these necessities… Pastors saved money for social development projects by living modest lives usually behind the church, riding bicycles and working their own farms in a clear example of storing up treasures in heaven as the Bible recommends.’ Such sincere ministers did not use church funds for themselves. This is the type of spirit that should still characterise churches and their leaders.

A few churches have genuine welfare schemes, but a growing number are hardly about the congregants. In some churches, such as ‘Incredible Happenings Ministries’ and ‘Winners’ Chapel’, congregants are funding all manner of excesses including multichannel TV broadcasts, additional ‘organisations’ such as publishing houses and private schools which are run as businesses for profit, flashy cars and private jets (Jacobs et al., 2014). Besides fleets of expensive cars, even more shockingly, several religious leaders personally own more than one plane, including Bishop David Oyedepo of Winners’ Chapel who has four jets! Oyedepo, who is known as ‘the Pastorpreneur’, has not been able to account for how he funds his abundantly materialistic lifestyle, and he is not the only one of his kind (Arbuthnott, 2012).

Jacobs et al. (2014) say, ‘In a bid to please “God” and achieve the elusive breakthrough parishioners squeeze themselves dry to contribute to various projects… The more they give the poorer they become and the richer the church.’ Paradoxically, poverty ravages those churchgoers who attend ostentatious buildings run by pastors in expensive suits. Jacobs et al. (2014) thus question whether the modern church has abandoned the good works of the old church which at one time served and cared for its followers. It certainly seems that way. Some controversial churches have been banned in certain countries, but are still widely popular in South Africa. Researcher Dr Ilana van Wyk (2015) found that, rather than emphasising spiritual growth and community good, some encourage obsession over materialism; operate through sensationalism, gossip, bullying and cajoling; make use of business strategies for profit; and divert attention to a frightening ‘spiritual warfare’ of demons and witchcraft. They impoverish the poor by promoting the idea that God’s favour can be bought, and make no charitable or philanthropic efforts. Sermons are mere fundraising events.

Another example is pastors who are all for Christian consumerism and whose sermons are openly financial in theme. Some say money is an integral part of Christianity and that capitalism is endorsed by the Bible (Whittles, 2017). At one South African church there is a multipurpose centre for services, worship and shopping. ‘The trade centre resembles a mini-mall’ with franchise stores as well as family-owned food and drink shops and a Christian bookshop (Whittles, 2017). This is hardly the Christianity of the Bible! Jesus was against trade at a place of worship and it is portrayed in the Bible as a type of corruption. He drove merchants out of the temple in Jerusalem (see John 2: 13-16). Businesses should not be operating at a Christian church, regardless of whether they are candid about their commercialism or not.

It is not only a few rich pastors who are guilty of exploiting parishioners or promoting materialism, however. Smaller cults run by families for profit are still a popular way of making a living in Africa. These cults, such as Angels Ministries discussed above, typically target the poor, uneducated, sick and disillusioned with promises of wealth and success – for a price. Sometimes this is not money. Food, labour and sex are also traded. A similar scheme for attracting and swindling vulnerable individuals is used by many small fly-by-night churches. Some researchers, such as Dr van Wyk (2015), have made efforts to expose these methods and thus raise awareness and prevent exploitation.

 

References

Arbuthnott G (2012) Laughing on his private jet – the £93m pastor accused of exploiting British worshippers. UK Daily Mail, 21 October.

CRL Rights Commission (2017) CRL Rights Commission Report on the Commercialisation of Religion and Abuse of People’s Belief Systems. From: http://bit.ly/2u4gM9I (accessed 19 March 2018).

Gutto S (2017) When people’s beliefs are abused. City Press, 16 July.

Jacobs N, Onuegbu C, Duru P, Ebirim J, Edukugho E & Anibeze O (2014) Rich churches, poor members. Vanguard, 21 October.

Pather R (2018) Hawks report could trigger further Seven Angels cult arrests. Mail & Guardian, 26 February.

Sekhaulelo MA (2014) Reformed Churches in South Africa’s strategies for poverty reduction in urban communities. In die Skriflig, 48(1), Art. #1788.

Van Wyk I (2015) The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa: A Church of Strangers. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Whittles G (2017) Christ and capitalism reconciled. Mail & Guardian, 13 April.

Rights commission formed to investigate abuses in SA religions

In 2015, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (the CRL Rights Commission) began its investigation into the commercialisation of religion and other abuses happening in religious organisations in South Africa. Their investigation report was submitted to Parliament in June 2017. The report states, ‘Recent controversial news reports and articles in the media about pastors have left a large portion of society questioning whether religion has become a commercial institution or commodity to enrich a few’ (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 4). This article looks at abuse and corruption in churches, particularly in so-called Christian churches.

It is thus not surprising that the Commission encountered resistance from religious groups that did not want to discuss how they are being run. Some religious groups are self-regulating and strive to adhere to high moral standards. They have better reputations. As a result, the Commission did not investigate certain religious groups, but focused on those which were raising red flags.

Legal expert adviser to the Commission, Shadrack Gutto (2017) explained that our South African Constitution ‘provides for the rights of people belonging to a religious community to enjoy their religion and “to form, join and maintain religious associations”, but not “in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.”’ This is the critical aspect – we have many freedoms, but they must not trespass on the rights of others and go against laws protecting all parties in various aspects of social, religious and economic life. In some cases, religious leaders are unpaid volunteers, and others receive a modest living so that they can devote themselves fully to the faith and to helping people. Many religious leaders choose theology out of a strong desire to help others. However, the too close association between money and some religious leaders is troubling.

Gutto (2017) further says, ‘The idea that the words, revelations and instructions from the gods, whatever they may be, are above the Constitution and laws of the country is promotion of theocracy that, sooner or later, may turn into movements similar to that of past crusaders and present-day fundamentalist groups.’ This can lead to dangerous situations. The Commission warns against extremism and its report details examples of this in South Africa. At the hearings, one person said, ‘The church wants to give us money. These devils [the commissioners] are standing in our way’ (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 25). Enquiries into how churches are run were thus sometimes very unwelcome and the Commission met with considerable resistance.

The commissioners noted that pastors arrived at the hearings in very expensive cars and even had a number of bodyguards, as though they were celebrities. There appears to be a commercialisation of religion, particularly a form of ‘Christian consumerism’ or, in some cases, obvious exploitation. Some groups sell blessed items such as holy oil for moderate (R40) to exorbitant (over R1,000) prices. Certain groups work only in cash for obvious reasons. Promises of fixing personal problems are made in exchange for payment. One woman was asked for R250,000 to help her have children (CRL Rights Commission, 2017). There is still a worryingly popular saying in Africa that, ‘If you want to make money, start a religion.’ Dr Motshine Sekhaulelo (2014), a researcher in theology in South Africa says that, ‘By promoting false hope about the prospects for overnight success through prayer and tithing, some of these churches take advantage of a vulnerable congregation that is often desperate for an improvement in their economic circumstances.’

Jacobs et al. (2014) explain how a type of ‘bidding’ system for blessings is conducted. An amount is named by the pastor who asks people to come forward for a special blessing if they have it. In one example given, this was over R6,000. The pastor then reduces the amount and people come forward as they can, depending on how much money they have and how much they want the special blessing (Jacobs et al., 2014). This obviously shows favouritism for the rich, but places pressure on all the congregants. It creates the belief that only by paying the pastor or church can they be blessed which is contrary to the teachings of Christianity. A number of Jesus’ teachings show that this is unchristian, including the story of the poor widow pointed out by Jesus (see Mark 12: 41-44).

 

Why the Commission was formed

The religious sect in the Eastern Cape called ‘Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries’ was actually the reason the CRL Rights Commission’s investigation was started. The leaders told followers to take their children out of school because the Devil was controlling schools and a disturbing reason for this was later revealed. At the Commission’s hearing early in 2016, they said that education is wrong and that it was Nelson Mandela who allowed education to be taken over by the Devil. The leaders also said that they are angels, not people (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 21-22). This is obviously very extreme, but it was only the beginning of this story.

A leader of Angels Ministries explicitly stated that our Constitution is driven by Satan (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 21). So they feel they are above the law, and their actions clearly show this. The leaders kept women and girls between the ages of 12 and 21 as sex slaves, and there were over 100 of them (Pather, 2018). Likely this is what happened to the female children who were taken out of school. This constitutes serious abuse by religious leaders of their most vulnerable followers, particularly the underage girls who were kept in shacks and not allowed to go out. They were finally freed by police in February 2018, but this could have happened sooner (Pather, 2018). The Commission warned authorities as they could see this particular cult was dangerous and major problems were afoot. Angel Ministries started to run out of money, and seeing themselves above the law, they stole weapons from the police, probably intending to use them in robberies, and they were involved in ATM bombings as well. A shootout with police followed and a number of people were killed including five police officers (Pather, 2018).

Although the Hawks began a criminal investigation, the CRL Rights Commission has lamented their not taking stronger action sooner. Commission Chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said they made Parliament aware of their concerns about the cult, but no strong action was taken: ‘This has been a ticking time bomb. We said either these people are going to commit suicide or something else will happen… No one listened to us. This could have been avoided’ (Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, quoted in Pather, 2018).

This illustrates just how far people can be manipulated in relation to religious beliefs. Considering their findings, Chairperson Mkhwanazi-Xaluva also said ‘we cannot have a sector that is not regulated’ (Pather, 2018). Regulation of religious organisations is important because of such exploitative practices. Practices by religious organisations may sometimes be more subtly abusive while others may not necessarily do any harm to followers. Goods such as holy oil or religious texts sold at a low price do not seem particularly problematic. It can be instructive or serve a purpose in helping some people feel secure in their faith, having something tangible to hold onto, while also ensuring that the organisation can maintain its buildings and so forth at a decent standard.

 

‘Pastorpreneurship’: Do jets and Jesus go together?

Nevertheless, some practices can go against the spirit of faiths such as Christianity when they are marketed in a commercial way to people as a ‘cure’ for all their problems, and when it brings in undue profits used by church leaders to maintain an extravagant lifestyle. Jacobs et al. (2014) note that, at one time, churches ‘offered scholarships, gave free books and teaching aids… food, clothing and shelter to those deprived of these necessities… Pastors saved money for social development projects by living modest lives usually behind the church, riding bicycles and working their own farms in a clear example of storing up treasures in heaven as the Bible recommends.’ Such sincere ministers did not use church funds for themselves. This is the type of spirit that should still characterise churches and their leaders.

A few churches have genuine welfare schemes, but a growing number are hardly about the congregants. In some churches, such as ‘Incredible Happenings Ministries’ and ‘Winners’ Chapel’, congregants are funding all manner of excesses including multichannel TV broadcasts, additional ‘organisations’ such as publishing houses and private schools which are run as businesses for profit, flashy cars and private jets (Jacobs et al., 2014). Besides fleets of expensive cars, even more shockingly, several religious leaders personally own more than one plane, including Bishop David Oyedepo of Winners’ Chapel who has four jets! Oyedepo, who is known as ‘the Pastorpreneur’, has not been able to account for how he funds his abundantly materialistic lifestyle, and he is not the only one of his kind (Arbuthnott, 2012).

Jacobs et al. (2014) say, ‘In a bid to please “God” and achieve the elusive breakthrough parishioners squeeze themselves dry to contribute to various projects… The more they give the poorer they become and the richer the church.’ Paradoxically, poverty ravages those churchgoers who attend ostentatious buildings run by pastors in expensive suits. Jacobs et al. (2014) thus question whether the modern church has abandoned the good works of the old church which at one time served and cared for its followers. It certainly seems that way. Some controversial churches have been banned in certain countries, but are still widely popular in South Africa. Researcher Dr Ilana van Wyk (2015) found that, rather than emphasising spiritual growth and community good, some encourage obsession over materialism; operate through sensationalism, gossip, bullying and cajoling; make use of business strategies for profit; and divert attention to a frightening ‘spiritual warfare’ of demons and witchcraft. They impoverish the poor by promoting the idea that God’s favour can be bought, and make no charitable or philanthropic efforts. Sermons are mere fundraising events.

Another example is pastors who are all for Christian consumerism and whose sermons are openly financial in theme. Some say money is an integral part of Christianity and that capitalism is endorsed by the Bible (Whittles, 2017). At one South African church there is a multipurpose centre for services, worship and shopping. ‘The trade centre resembles a mini-mall’ with franchise stores as well as family-owned food and drink shops and a Christian bookshop (Whittles, 2017). This is hardly the Christianity of the Bible! Jesus was against trade at a place of worship and it is portrayed in the Bible as a type of corruption. He drove merchants out of the temple in Jerusalem (see John 2: 13-16). Businesses should not be operating at a Christian church, regardless of whether they are candid about their commercialism or not.

It is not only a few rich pastors who are guilty of exploiting parishioners or promoting materialism, however. Smaller cults run by families for profit are still a popular way of making a living in Africa. These cults, such as Angels Ministries discussed above, typically target the poor, uneducated, sick and disillusioned with promises of wealth and success – for a price. Sometimes this is not money. Food, labour and sex are also traded. A similar scheme for attracting and swindling vulnerable individuals is used by many small fly-by-night churches. Some researchers, such as Dr van Wyk (2015), have made efforts to expose these methods and thus raise awareness and prevent exploitation.

 

References

Arbuthnott G (2012) Laughing on his private jet – the £93m pastor accused of exploiting British worshippers. UK Daily Mail, 21 October.

CRL Rights Commission (2017) CRL Rights Commission Report on the Commercialisation of Religion and Abuse of People’s Be

Rights commission formed to investigate abuses in SA religions
In 2015, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (the CRL Rights Commission) began its investigation into the commercialisation of religion and other abuses happening in religious organisations in South Africa. Their investigation report was submitted to Parliament in June 2017. The report states, ‘Recent controversial news reports and articles in the media about pastors have left a large portion of society questioning whether religion has become a commercial institution or commodity to enrich a few’ (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 4). This article looks at abuse and corruption in churches, particularly in so-called Christian churches.
It is thus not surprising that the Commission encountered resistance from religious groups that did not want to discuss how they are being run. Some religious groups are self-regulating and strive to adhere to high moral standards. They have better reputations. As a result, the Commission did not investigate certain religious groups, but focused on those which were raising red flags.
Legal expert adviser to the Commission, Shadrack Gutto (2017) explained that our South African Constitution ‘provides for the rights of people belonging to a religious community to enjoy their religion and “to form, join and maintain religious associations”, but not “in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.”’ This is the critical aspect – we have many freedoms, but they must not trespass on the rights of others and go against laws protecting all parties in various aspects of social, religious and economic life. In some cases, religious leaders are unpaid volunteers, and others receive a modest living so that they can devote themselves fully to the faith and to helping people. Many religious leaders choose theology out of a strong desire to help others. However, the too close association between money and some religious leaders is troubling.
Gutto (2017) further says, ‘The idea that the words, revelations and instructions from the gods, whatever they may be, are above the Constitution and laws of the country is promotion of theocracy that, sooner or later, may turn into movements similar to that of past crusaders and present-day fundamentalist groups.’ This can lead to dangerous situations. The Commission warns against extremism and its report details examples of this in South Africa. At the hearings, one person said, ‘The church wants to give us money. These devils [the commissioners] are standing in our way’ (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 25). Enquiries into how churches are run were thus sometimes very unwelcome and the Commission met with considerable resistance.
The commissioners noted that pastors arrived at the hearings in very expensive cars and even had a number of bodyguards, as though they were celebrities. There appears to be a commercialisation of religion, particularly a form of ‘Christian consumerism’ or, in some cases, obvious exploitation. Some groups sell blessed items such as holy oil for moderate (R40) to exorbitant (over R1,000) prices. Certain groups work only in cash for obvious reasons. Promises of fixing personal problems are made in exchange for payment. One woman was asked for R250,000 to help her have children (CRL Rights Commission, 2017). There is still a worryingly popular saying in Africa that, ‘If you want to make money, start a religion.’ Dr Motshine Sekhaulelo (2014), a researcher in theology in South Africa says that, ‘By promoting false hope about the prospects for overnight success through prayer and tithing, some of these churches take advantage of a vulnerable congregation that is often desperate for an improvement in their economic circumstances.’
Jacobs et al. (2014) explain how a type of ‘bidding’ system for blessings is conducted. An amount is named by the pastor who asks people to come forward for a special blessing if they have it. In one example given, this was over R6,000. The pastor then reduces the amount and people come forward as they can, depending on how much money they have and how much they want the special blessing (Jacobs et al., 2014). This obviously shows favouritism for the rich, but places pressure on all the congregants. It creates the belief that only by paying the pastor or church can they be blessed which is contrary to the teachings of Christianity. A number of Jesus’ teachings show that this is unchristian, including the story of the poor widow pointed out by Jesus (see Mark 12: 41-44).

Why the Commission was formed
The religious sect in the Eastern Cape called ‘Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries’ was actually the reason the CRL Rights Commission’s investigation was started. The leaders told followers to take their children out of school because the Devil was controlling schools and a disturbing reason for this was later revealed. At the Commission’s hearing early in 2016, they said that education is wrong and that it was Nelson Mandela who allowed education to be taken over by the Devil. The leaders also said that they are angels, not people (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 21-22). This is obviously very extreme, but it was only the beginning of this story.
A leader of Angels Ministries explicitly stated that our Constitution is driven by Satan (CRL Rights Commission, 2017: 21). So they feel they are above the law, and their actions clearly show this. The leaders kept women and girls between the ages of 12 and 21 as sex slaves, and there were over 100 of them (Pather, 2018). Likely this is what happened to the female children who were taken out of school. This constitutes serious abuse by religious leaders of their most vulnerable followers, particularly the underage girls who were kept in shacks and not allowed to go out. They were finally freed by police in February 2018, but this could have happened sooner (Pather, 2018). The Commission warned authorities as they could see this particular cult was dangerous and major problems were afoot. Angel Ministries started to run out of money, and seeing themselves above the law, they stole weapons from the police, probably intending to use them in robberies, and they were involved in ATM bombings as well. A shootout with police followed and a number of people were killed including five police officers (Pather, 2018).
Although the Hawks began a criminal investigation, the CRL Rights Commission has lamented their not taking stronger action sooner. Commission Chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said they made Parliament aware of their concerns about the cult, but no strong action was taken: ‘This has been a ticking time bomb. We said either these people are going to commit suicide or something else will happen… No one listened to us. This could have been avoided’ (Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, quoted in Pather, 2018).
This illustrates just how far people can be manipulated in relation to religious beliefs. Considering their findings, Chairperson Mkhwanazi-Xaluva also said ‘we cannot have a sector that is not regulated’ (Pather, 2018). Regulation of religious organisations is important because of such exploitative practices. Practices by religious organisations may sometimes be more subtly abusive while others may not necessarily do any harm to followers. Goods such as holy oil or religious texts sold at a low price do not seem particularly problematic. It can be instructive or serve a purpose in helping some people feel secure in their faith, having something tangible to hold onto, while also ensuring that the organisation can maintain its buildings and so forth at a decent standard.

‘Pastorpreneurship’: Do jets and Jesus go together?
Nevertheless, some practices can go against the spirit of faiths such as Christianity when they are marketed in a commercial way to people as a ‘cure’ for all their problems, and when it brings in undue profits used by church leaders to maintain an extravagant lifestyle. Jacobs et al. (2014) note that, at one time, churches ‘offered scholarships, gave free books and teaching aids… food, clothing and shelter to those deprived of these necessities… Pastors saved money for social development projects by living modest lives usually behind the church, riding bicycles and working their own farms in a clear example of storing up treasures in heaven as the Bible recommends.’ Such sincere ministers did not use church funds for themselves. This is the type of spirit that should still characterise churches and their leaders.
A few churches have genuine welfare schemes, but a growing number are hardly about the congregants. In some churches, such as ‘Incredible Happenings Ministries’ and ‘Winners’ Chapel’, congregants are funding all manner of excesses including multichannel TV broadcasts, additional ‘organisations’ such as publishing houses and private schools which are run as businesses for profit, flashy cars and private jets (Jacobs et al., 2014). Besides fleets of expensive cars, even more shockingly, several religious leaders personally own more than one plane, including Bishop David Oyedepo of Winners’ Chapel who has four jets! Oyedepo, who is known as ‘the Pastorpreneur’, has not been able to account for how he funds his abundantly materialistic lifestyle, and he is not the only one of his kind (Arbuthnott, 2012).
Jacobs et al. (2014) say, ‘In a bid to please “God” and achieve the elusive breakthrough parishioners squeeze themselves dry to contribute to various projects… The more they give the poorer they become and the richer the church.’ Paradoxically, poverty ravages those churchgoers who attend ostentatious buildings run by pastors in expensive suits. Jacobs et al. (2014) thus question whether the modern church has abandoned the good works of the old church which at one time served and cared for its followers. It certainly seems that way. Some controversial churches have been banned in certain countries, but are still widely popular in South Africa. Researcher Dr Ilana van Wyk (2015) found that, rather than emphasising spiritual growth and community good, some encourage obsession over materialism; operate through sensationalism, gossip, bullying and cajoling; make use of business strategies for profit; and divert attention to a frightening ‘spiritual warfare’ of demons and witchcraft. They impoverish the poor by promoting the idea that God’s favour can be bought, and make no charitable or philanthropic efforts. Sermons are mere fundraising events.
Another example is pastors who are all for Christian consumerism and whose sermons are openly financial in theme. Some say money is an integral part of Christianity and that capitalism is endorsed by the Bible (Whittles, 2017). At one South African church there is a multipurpose centre for services, worship and shopping. ‘The trade centre resembles a mini-mall’ with franchise stores as well as family-owned food and drink shops and a Christian bookshop (Whittles, 2017). This is hardly the Christianity of the Bible! Jesus was against trade at a place of worship and it is portrayed in the Bible as a type of corruption. He drove merchants out of the temple in Jerusalem (see John 2: 13-16). Businesses should not be operating at a Christian church, regardless of whether they are candid about their commercialism or not.
It is not only a few rich pastors who are guilty of exploiting parishioners or promoting materialism, however. Smaller cults run by families for profit are still a popular way of making a living in Africa. These cults, such as Angels Ministries discussed above, typically target the poor, uneducated, sick and disillusioned with promises of wealth and success – for a price. Sometimes this is not money. Food, labour and sex are also traded. A similar scheme for attracting and swindling vulnerable individuals is used by many small fly-by-night churches. Some researchers, such as Dr van Wyk (2015), have made efforts to expose these methods and thus raise awareness and prevent exploitation.

References
Arbuthnott G (2012) Laughing on his private jet – the £93m pastor accused of exploiting British worshippers. UK Daily Mail, 21 October.
CRL Rights Commission (2017) CRL Rights Commission Report on the Commercialisation of Religion and Abuse of People’s Belief Systems. From: http://bit.ly/2u4gM9I (accessed 19 March 2018).
Gutto S (2017) When people’s beliefs are abused. City Press, 16 July.
Jacobs N, Onuegbu C, Duru P, Ebirim J, Edukugho E & Anibeze O (2014) Rich churches, poor members. Vanguard, 21 October.
Pather R (2018) Hawks report could trigger further Seven Angels cult arrests. Mail & Guardian, 26 February.
Sekhaulelo MA (2014) Reformed Churches in South Africa’s strategies for poverty reduction in urban communities. In die Skriflig, 48(1), Art. #1788.
Van Wyk I (2015) The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa: A Church of Strangers. New York, Cambridge University Press.
Whittles G (2017) Christ and capitalism reconciled. Mail & Guardian, 13 April.

lief Systems. From: http://bit.ly/2u4gM9I (accessed 19 March 2018).

Gutto S (2017) When people’s beliefs are abused. City Press, 16 July.

Jacobs N, Onuegbu C, Duru P, Ebirim J, Edukugho E & Anibeze O (2014) Rich churches, poor members. Vanguard, 21 October.

Pather R (2018) Hawks report could trigger further Seven Angels cult arrests. Mail & Guardian, 26 February.

Sekhaulelo MA (2014) Reformed Churches in South Africa’s strategies for poverty reduction in urban communities. In die Skriflig, 48(1), Art. #1788.

Van Wyk I (2015) The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa: A Church of Strangers. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Whittles G (2017) Christ and capitalism reconciled. Mail & Guardian, 13 April.

 

Diversity a Pivotal but Neglected Training Area in SA Business

Why train on diversity specifically? This
article looks at why diversity training
programmes are so crucial.
Business places are the context of
ongoing racial and other forms of
diversity-related tension. At the
interpersonal level, colleagues struggle to
find the words to discuss latent tension
among themselves. Tension goes
unaddressed until it boils over into petty
or serious arguments – both with highly
destructive outcomes. Deep hurt is felt by
those on the receiving end of prejudice, and
valuable reputations are damaged.
Transformation – which should benefit everyone and promote diversity – is mostly ignored by
corporates. There seems to be a belief that these problems will solve themselves eventually
when we are somehow “ready” for transformation. Examining this belief, however, quickly
shows that it is incorrect. We must actively undertake the transformation process as groups and
individuals because the tension will certainly not resolve itself. A major obstacle here is that
businesses don’t view transformation as their responsibility. Generally, they avoid addressing
interpersonal problems, racially related or otherwise.
Nevertheless, diversity problems are systemic social issues which corporate social responsibility
(CSR) efforts ought to be addressing. Businesses are ideally positioned to tackle them and make
radical changes through training and sensitisation initiatives. The fact is that companies have
always had the resources and capacity to effectively mitigate such problems before they even
began to take root. Now we have the democracy and legislation to support this. Why wait any
longer to start the healing process which will benefit all our relationships and networks?

Admittedly, addressing contentious issues at work is awkward. People rather vent to their
families and friends, deepening existing community divisions. Constructive diversity discussions
remain rare. A neutral, qualified third party is indispensable here. Good training companies show
people how to manage diversity to benefit individual relationships, business performance as well
as the broader community. Training officers guide and promote constructive dialogue in a
respectful manner and in line with relevant policies.
To fulfil their leadership responsibilities, CEOs and senior management in general must be
change makers, charting the way forward in social revitalisation. Transformation starts with
strong leaders taking a stand on behalf of communities. Business leaders making wise training
and CSR investments will make a massive impact. There is no point in wishing for a better South
Africa when CEOs, who wield considerable power in society, are not determined to ensure
diversity training happens.
To address the diversity problem, we have to speak to individuals’ perceptions of what diversity
is. In the training environment, we must dig deeper, appealing to each learner in order to change
attitudes and behaviours around race and cohesiveness. The ICHAF Diversity Programme uses
this approach, following a carefully designed method to help businesses and South Africans
individually. Our formula allows people to talk about issues openly and in depth. More
importantly, it ensures they return to work (and the community) with new skills and the ability
to implement them for positive change.