The SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) has called for victims of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church stampede to be compensated at least R1m.
Three people died and nine others were injured during the stampede on December 28 in Pretoria.
The organisation made the call after church leader, Prophet Bushiri, told the CRL Rights Commission on Monday that the church was working on a compensation package for bereaved families. He said they were discussing how the compensation would be facilitated.
The commission is holding hearings after it was said that there were discrepancies about the stampede at a mediation meeting held with the City of Tshwane, the church, and Sanco.
However, Sanco Tshwane regional chairperson Abram Mashishi says the commission should consider, as a benchmark, the amount Justice Dikgang Moseneke awarded to victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
In that tragedy, about 144 psychiatric patients died when they were moved from Life Esidimeni to ill-equipped NGOs and state institutions.
“This commission needs to benchmark on the Justice Dikgang Moseneke commission regarding Life Esidimeni. He recommended that the families must not be compensated less than R1m. That will be our benchmark,” Mashishi said.
Commission chairperson, Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, said compensation would be discussed later and that it was not the focus at this point.
Mashishi also told the commission the organisation‘s mandate was to have the church closed until the stampede investigations were concluded.
“As Sanco, we require one, the issue of compliance, two, the issue of the contract between the City and the church, three, to question their by-laws.”
He said there were noise concerns and complaints that children in the community could not study because of the church‘s loud sound system. In addition, there were health-related complaints. People were said to be sleeping in front of the church gates and others were relieving themselves, washing and sleeping on the streets outside Pretoria Showgrounds, where church services take place.
But Xaluva said: “As I said, the City said that was fake news. They never said the church was non-compliant. We will be asking the City tomorrow as to what did they do when all of us were at home watching on national television [and they were] saying that the church is non-compliant.”
Mashishi also told the commission it was important that the City of Tshwane – not only the church – took responsibility for the incident.
“We are making that submission to the commission to say: ‘Let all processes be followed. Let us not leave any stones unturned. We all know and understand our flaws. Let‘s sit down and correct them and make sure that the country, the citizens of this country, are the ones who enjoy the benefits of this country first before somebody else comes,‘” he said.
Earlier on Monday, Bushiri told the commission that the church appealed to Sanco to also protect the church.
“We wish to reiterate that we want Sanco to be the first to stand for us in some of the challenges we face in our operations,” Bushiri said.
Sanco was accompanied by family members who lost their mother during the stampede. She was a congregant.
“We want to put emphasis chair, to say: ‘We don‘t want to see ourselves fight together but at the end of the day, we want to arrive [at a decision] where all of us amicably agree,‘” Mashishi said.
Mashishi also told the commission that there were allegations that one of the ECG pastors owned a mortuary in Atteridgville, where bodies were said to have been moved to.
“We are waiting for the police to take us to that mortuary and do the investigations,” he said.
The City of Tshwane is expected to give clarity on Tuesday about the church‘s compliance, particularly at the time of the tragedy.
The commission said it was likely to release its findings and recommendations on Thursday.