Following complaints about Christian congregations eating snakes, rats, human hair and guzzling petrol, South Africa has announced a decision to move against pastors who use religion to make money and those who dupe people with promises of dodgy miracles.
According to The Sowetan, the country's Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Religious, Cultural and Linguistic Communities, on Thursday, launched an investigation into the abuse and exploitation of people's beliefs by some churches.
The paper quotes head of the commission, Thoko Mkwhanazi-Xaluva, as saying the commission has received petitions against Pastor Peniel Mnguni, whose followers have been made to eat snakes, rats and human hair.
Though provoked by Mnguni's maverick teachings, the investigation will focus on all religions in the country The commission, she said, will investigate promises of magic by traditional healers, why people believe in miracle talks or adverts in newspapers, pastors who abuse followers financially and the "supermarket approach" in worship places.
"Back in the day, people would go to church, pray and go home. Now, churches sell water, T-shirts and mealie-mealie. Why is that?
"The shopping that happens is a worrying phenomenon. How big is the industry, who manages it and how?" she asked.
Mkwhanazi-Xaluva, however, pointed out that the probe will not target anyone in particular, but warned that the commission has the power to issue summons and get the police to enforce such.
"People will be arrested. The law needs to take its course. I mean if a pastor has 50 cars parked in his yard and lives in a mansion, we need to know where the funding is coming from and where it is going.
"We need to know if these institutions should be regulated and if so, how," she said.
Mkwhanazi-Xaluva said the probe will be concluded next April.