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The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Separation of Religion or Belief and State

Universal Periodic Review reports in six languages


If reports below blue bar do not open, click to access these reports in the master link above

Universal Periodic Review - South Africa

Only contributions submitted in one of the United Nations official languages are admissible and posted on this webpage

Date of consideration: Tuesday 15 April 2008 - 2.30 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.

National report 1 :

E only

Compilation of UN information 2 :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Summary of stakeholders' information 3 :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Questions submitted in advance

Outcome of the review

Report of the Working group :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Decision on the outcome :

E only

Report of the eight session of the Human Rights Council :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Related webcast archives

Flag of South Africa

Main Country Page: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ZAIndex.aspx
National Report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/PAGES/ZASession1.aspx
Inter-active Dialogue: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/ZAWebArchives.aspx


There were 22 recommendations in the Working Group Report. No recommendations relating directly to Freedom of Religion or Belief.
One recommendation, #19 refers to Racism, Racial Discrimination,  Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.



The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has not visited South Africa.  South Africa has a standing invitation to Special Procedures Rapporteurs. Ms. Pillay the current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is from South Africa. South Africa is due to give its second Universal Periodic Review in May 2012.



IN 2007

In 2007 the U.N. Human Rights Council voted 29 in favor, 0 against and 18 abstentions on 14 December 2007 in the sixth session for a three year extension of the mandate on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (A/HRC/6/L.15/Rev.1). Those abstaining included: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Mali, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa and Sri Lanka. 

The abstentions were based on the objections from Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the 57 country Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that norms in Muslim countries prohibit leaving Islam as a religion, and were not being honored in the draft resolution.

Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU) said over 40 paragraphs in the draft resolution was eliminated in an attempt at consensus with the abstaining states, but consensus over the right to leave one’s religion or belief was inviolable and could not be compromised

The Right to Change One’s Religion or Belief – The Resolution (A/HRC/RES/6/37) with recorded votes:  http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/resolutions/A_HRC_RES_6_37.pdf


IN 2011

A/HRC/16/13 – Resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Adopted without a vote by Consensus on 24 March 2011.

Resolution A/HRC/16/L.38  


7. Urges States to step up their efforts to protect and promote freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, and to this end:

(a) To ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief to all without distinction by, inter alia, the provision of access to justice and effective remedies in cases where the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, or the right to freely practice one’s religion, including the right to change one’s religion or belief, is violated;

A/HRC/16/18 - Link to HRC Panel Discussion 14 June 2011. Read page one on the importance of Consensus for human rights and freedom of religion or belief

UN Human Rights Council Panel Discussion - Culture of Tolerance and Peace - 14 June 2011




Separation of Religion or Belief is a term used by to express core principles of international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief, encourages UN Member States with constitutions or legal systems called a State Church, or State Theocracy form of government to consider ways in which the following objective can be implemented.


The right of all persons to their own values, cultural identity and core principles based on religion or belief,
separate from the state in tandem with human rights on freedom of religion or belief for the common good.

General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm.



The Tandem Project C&C Database has an inter-active internet capability for Universal Periodic Reviews by Governments, Community, Village and independent study strategies within countries. This is based on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the eight articles of the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Community Strategies were first proposed during the 1986 International Conference on Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief.




A synthesis between disciplines to activate a holistic approach to the inalienable, indivisible and interrelatedness of human rights and freedom of religion or belief.  Advocates and professionals of each discipline propose programs to contribute to a concrete foundation for human rights and freedom of religion or belief. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of each country is different depending on the constitutions, cultures and ethnicities of the country.  But the need to build a holistic core foundation for human rights and freedom of religion or belief in each country is the same.

The Tandem Project suggests South Africa give consideration
to a new holistic approach to integrate these disciplines 

Law, Education, Analysis, Development
  (LEAD), a human rights strategy to synthesize four  components of the 1986 international conference on  Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief.  

1. Law--ways in which efforts can be supported to examine international legal structures; national constitutions, national and local legislation, to make sure there is a legal framework for the Declaration in each nation-state of the U.N; 2. Education--ways in which broadly-based programs of education can be developed at all levels in schools, government, universities, voluntary organizations, and the media; 3. Analysis--ways in which special studies, research, and curricula can be developed in theological seminaries, universities, and colleges to combat and to eliminate intolerance based on religion or belief; 4. Development--ways in which organizations of diverse ideologies may be able to work together on humanitarian service projects in the "name and spirit" of tolerance, with mutual understanding and respect for each other.





Draft plan of action for the second phase (2010-2014) of the World Programme for Human Rights Education (A/HRC/15/28)  focus on Higher Education: U.N. Human Rights Council

(b) Teaching and learning processes and tools

Introducing or improving human rights education in the higher education system requires adopting a holistic approach to teaching and learning, by integrating programme objectives and content, resources, methodologies, assessment and evaluation; by looking beyond the classroom and the higher-education institution to society; and by building partnerships between different members of the academic community and beyond.

Develop multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary human rights academic programmes. 

Multidisciplinary programmes would include the study, research and engagement with human rights from different disciplinary perspectives, such as philosophy, sociology, languages, international and domestic law, etc. Interdisciplinary programmes would entail the crossing of boundaries between disciplines and the pooling of approaches and methodologies to study, research and engage with human rights with a new integrated perspective.

There can be no adequate understanding of the most important issues we face when disciplines are cloistered from one another and operate on their own premises. It would be far more effective to bring together people working on questions of religion, politics, history, economics, anthropology, sociology, literature, art, religion and philosophy to engage in comparative analysis of common problems.  – New York Times Op-Ed: April 27, 2009, Mark C. Taylor, Chairman of the Religion Department, Columbia University, New York.

Indicators to measure inclusive and genuine awareness and understanding of International Human Rights Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief. QUESTIONNAIRE



Lesson: Limitations to Manifest a Religion or Belief: http://www.tandemproject.com/part2/article1/art1_3.htm
Lesson: Discrimination by the State, Institutions, Groups, Person: http://www.tandemproject.com/part2/article2/art2_1.htm
Lesson: Concept & Method: Freedom of Religion or Belief http://www.tandemproject.com/part1/concepts_methods/concepts_methods.htm
Reply: Inter-active C&C Database for text box reply to Eight Article Internet Course Lessons: http://www.tandemproject.com/databases/forms/card.htm


U.S. State Department 2010 International Religious Freedom Report, South Africa


November 17, 2010

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

There were few reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 470,693 square miles and a population of 49.3 million. The 2001 census estimated that 80 percent of the population is Christian. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and adherents of traditional African beliefs constitute 4 percent of the population. Approximately 16 percent of the population indicated it adheres to no particular religion or declined to indicate an affiliation. Many combine Christian and indigenous religious practices.

African Independent Churches (AICs) are the largest group of Christian churches. Once regarded as Ethiopian churches, the majority is now referred to as Zionist or Apostolic churches (with 6.9 and 5.9 million adherents, respectively). There are said to be more than 10,000 AICs, with a membership of nearly 13 million. The Zion Christian Church is the largest AIC, with an estimated membership of 6.9 million. AICs serve more than half the population in the northern KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga areas. There are at least 900 AICs in Soweto

Other Christian groups include Protestants (Methodist, Dutch Reformed, Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Lutheran, and Presbyterian), Pentecostal/charismatic churches, and the Roman Catholic Church. Greek Orthodox, Scientology, and Seventh-day Adventist churches are also active.

According to the 2001 census, African Traditionalists make up less than 0.5 percent of the population. However, of the 16 percent of the population that claimed no religious affiliation on the 2001 census, some may adhere to unaffiliated indigenous religions.

Approximately half of the ethnic Indian population, a majority of which resides in KwaZulu-Natal, practices Hinduism. The small Muslim community is made up mostly of Cape Malays of Indonesian descent, and the remainder is largely of Indian or Pakistani extraction.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The bill of rights prohibits the government from unfairly discriminating directly or indirectly against anyone based on religion; it states that persons belonging to a religious community may not be denied the right to practice their religion and to form, join, and maintain religious associations with other members of that community. Cases of discrimination against a person on the grounds of religious freedom may be taken to the Constitutional Court.

The constitution is deliberately religion-neutral. Leading government officials and ruling party members adhere to a variety of faiths.

The 2000 Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act prohibits unfair discrimination on the grounds of religion.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday and Christmas.

The government does not require religious groups to be licensed or registered. Religious groups can qualify as public benefit organizations, which are exempt from paying income tax.

In a case brought by a local nongovernmental organization seeking to compel the government to recognize Muslim marriages conducted according to Islamic law, the Constitutional Court ruled on July 22, 2009, that it did not have the power to obligate the president or the principal office-bearers of parliament to enact the legislation in question. The Muslim Marriages Bill, draft legislation supported by most Muslim and women's groups but opposed by a conservative Muslim minority, was prepared in 2003, but has never been voted on in parliament, ostensibly because of the lack of consensus among the Muslim community. Meanwhile, a continuing series of court cases were gradually building a common law basis of case precedents that achieved the bill's aims of validating Muslim marriages for purposes such as property inheritance.

The government allows, but does not require, religion education in public schools; however, religious instruction, or the advocating of tenets of a particular religious group, was not permitted in public schools. The government has made special accommodation for individual religious groups' holy days in the scheduling of national examinations.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were few reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

According to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), anti-Semitic incidents hit a new peak in 2009, although two-thirds of those were in the first two months of 2009 in connection with Israeli military strikes on Gaza. The SAJBD reported a still low but increasing level of hostile behavior toward the Jewish community, mainly linked to its support for Israel, to which pro-Palestinian voices in the country drew parallels with apartheid. Reported anti-Semitic incidents during the reporting period included mainly verbal abuse, as well as graffiti, hate mail, and distribution of offensive literature. The SAJBD recorded only three minor cases of assault in 2009, and vandalism was limited to destruction of posters and damaging Jewish Web sites.

A cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, drawn by popular political cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) in the context of a May 20, 2010, campaign on Facebook encouraging participants to depict the Muslim prophet, drew controversy and terror threats. The Muslim Judicial Council expressed "hurt" and "outrage" in a press release urging Muslims to condemn the cartoon "in a responsible and dignified manner," but the council also declared that death threats against the cartoonist had no place in religion or society and were "un-Islamic." Other prominent Muslims tried to explain the matter of "Muslim aversion to depiction" in newspaper editorials. Jihadist Web sites received new posts vowing attacks against Westerners during the World Cup held in the country in June and July 2010 because of the cartoon campaign, echoing prior al-Qa'ida threats.

While there were incidents of vandalism in religiously denominated cemeteries, such robberies also occurred in secular cemeteries, suggesting a mainly economic motive to the thefts, which did not include any antireligious statements or graffiti.

There were reports that persons accused of witchcraft were attacked and driven from their villages in rural communities and in some cases killed, particularly in provinces of Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape, where suspicion of witchcraft activity could lead to accusation, assault, forced exile, and killings, particularly of elderly women.

There were many ecumenical and interdenominational organizations among the various churches. The largest of these was the South African Council of Churches (SACC), which represented the Methodist Church, the Church of the Province of South Africa (Anglican), the Catholic Church, various Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, and the Congregational Church, among others. The major indigenous religious groups, most of the Afrikaans-language churches, and the Pentecostal and charismatic churches were not members of the SACC and usually had their own coordinating and liaison bodies.

The National Religious Leaders' Forum represented the country's seven main faith-based communities (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, African Traditionalist, Buddhist, and Baha'i). The forum, in cooperation with the government, aimed to leverage its grass roots networks to undertake social welfare initiatives such as poverty alleviation or combating HIV/AIDS.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

The U.S. consulate general in Cape Town continued its support for the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, which brings together Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Baha'is, Buddhists, and African Traditionalists.

The Tandem Project a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance, and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference material and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

In 1968 the United Nations deferred work on a legally-binding treaty on religious intolerance as too complex and sensitive and passed a non-binding declaration in its place. The Tandem Project believes until a core legally-binding human rights Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief  is adopted international human rights law will be incomplete. It may be time to begin to consider reinstating the 1968 Working Group to better organize and bring all matters relating to freedom of religion or belief under one banner, a core international human rights legally-binding treaty.

Document Attached: Background - Human Rights & Freedom of Religion or Belief