The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (hereinafter referred to as ‘the CRL Rights Commission’) is a constitutional institution established to strengthen constitutional democracy with specific reference to the rights of culture, religion, and languages. This mandate is provided for under sections 181(1)(c) and 185 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. Our mandate is further given meaning to and shape by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Act 19 of 2002, (CRL Rights Act).

The main objects of the Commission include amongst others: to promote respect for and further the protection of the rights of cultural, religious, and linguistic communities and to promote and develop peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance, and national unity among and within cultural, religious, and linguistic communities, on the basis of equality, non–discrimination, and free association.

The debate about the slaughter of animals has continued to be a talking point among many people in our country. Some of the instances that brought about several views and counter views related to media reports in 2007 that showed Mr Toni Yengeni holding a spear at his Gugulethu home whereby he was to slaughter a cow for a cleansing ceremony after his release from prison.

On 04 December 2009 the late King Zwelithini was also taken to the Pietermaritzburg by the Animal Rights Africa organisation as they were opposed to the killing of a bull with bare hands. As it is known, the court found in favour of King Zwelithini. Also, recently, there has been supporting and dissenting views related to the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Mr Julius Malema who was seen slaughtering a cow during the party’s celebration.

Section 15(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa states that: “Everyone has a right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, and opinion”. Section 30 provides that everyone has the right to participate in the cultural life of their choice, and Section 31(1) further states that: “Persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community may not be denied the right, with other members of that community- (a) to enjoy their culture and practise their religion”.

Cultural convictions or practices, as stated in case of the MEC of Education KZN vs Pillay, may be as strongly held and as important to those who hold them as religious beliefs are to those more inclined to find meaning in a higher power than in a community of people. Cultural identity is one of the most important parts of a person’s identity precisely because it flows from belonging to a community and not from personal choice or achievement. And belonging involves more than simple association; it includes participation and expression of the community’s practices and traditions.

The practices and beliefs that make up an individual’s cultural identity will differ from person to person within a culture: one may express their culture through participation in initiation rites, another through traditional dress or song and another through keeping a traditional home. Many communities express their culture through slaughtering of animals, during celebrations, weddings, unveiling of tombstones, funerals etc.

It would therefore be disingenuous of anybody to deny that our society is characterised by a diversity of cultures, traditions, and beliefs. That being the case, there will always be instances where these diverse cultural and traditional beliefs and practices create challenges within our society. The Constitution of the country itself recognises these rights and practices. It must be acknowledged that some of these cultural beliefs and practices are strongly held by those who subscribe to them and regard them as part of their lives. Those who do not subscribe to the others’ cultural beliefs should not trivialise them. What is required is reasonable accommodation of each other to ensure harmony and to achieve a united society.”

The Chairperson of the CRL Rights Commission, Professor David Mosoma calls upon all South Africans to embrace their culture and traditions and to take pride in expressing these cultural practices and traditions. The Commission further calls upon everyone to respect cultural practices and traditions of others and to exercise tolerance and reasonable accommodation towards those who hold them strongly, as the Constitution itself recognises these rights.

Issued by the CRL Rights Commission

For inquiries contact:

Mpiyakhe Mkholo – Mpiyakhem@www.crlcommission.org.za

Beverley Mukhavhuli – beverley@www.crlcommission.org.za

011 358 9100

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