South Africa: The CRL Commission

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Nov 22 13:19:38 UTC 2006

The CRL Commission

Self-assessment: 4/10
Our assessment: 2/10

After two years of existence, which were mostly spent setting up shop,
this barely there" commission still has a lot of ground to cover. The
Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural,
Religious and Linguistic Communities is mandated to promote respect,
tolerance, harmony, friendship and national unity in the fraught arenas of
culture, religion and language in South Africa. But Dr Mongezi Guma, the
commissions chair, does not seem daunted by the mammoth task of performing
the role of mediator on such issues. He says it is still engaging with its
Act", as the CRL is the first commission of its kind in the world. The
commission appears unfazed that the public barely knows it exists, and
seems to believe that word of mouth will suffice to let the public know
about its role.

Guma says the CRL commissions limited budget of R13million does not allow
it to embark on public awareness campaigns. Unlike the Human Rights
Commission, which has litigating authority, the CRL is confined to the
role of facilitator in disputes over issues such as the dominance of the
Christian religion in South Africa. The commission hears complaints from
the various communities trying to gain recognition for their cultures. It
can, however, refer controversial cases to litigating bodies.

To date, the CRL has conducted effective public talks in the San community
to resolve tensions originating in a feud that occurred during the 1800s,
which divided the community into two groups. It also hosted a national
consultative conference, as required by the establishing Act. The
commission says that while its caseload is small (26 since its inception)
it is slowly increasing. Its most significant intervention has been public
hearings in conjunction with the National House of Traditional Leaders and
the Human Rights Commission in response to the rising death tolls at
circumcision schools.  -- Vuyo Sokupa

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