The body responsible for religious, linguistic and cultural groups in South Africa wants a peer review mechanism to clamp down on “attention-seeking prophets”.

Lately the news has been crammed with stories about pastors making congregants eat snakes, paper, rocks and dirt, spraying insecticide over them and making them drink engine lubricant – all in the name of healing.

“We believe that these pastors are competing among themselves. They want publicity. They want media attention and want to promote their churches,” said Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, chairman for the commission for the promotion and protection of the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities.

In 2016, the body investigated the apparent commercialisation of religion and violations of people’s rights in churches across the country.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said only a court interdict could stop the pastors from committing their extreme acts.

“What we are saying is that we need a permanent solution to the problem.

“Our proposals are very clear. We are asking for a peer review mechanism. We want the same mechanism used by lawyers doctors, teachers and social workers where their peers can sit down and make a ruling on whether the behavior is within the doctrine of Christianity,” she said.

The commission proposed that pastors must have licences before they could conduct their ministries. If the mechanism rejects the behavior, the pastor will have his licence to preach withdrawn.

The report of the commission will be taken to parliament to recommend the amendment of the current law to allow for new proposals to regulate the religious community.

In its preliminary report, the commission found that there was commercialisation of religion in the country, and a lack of proper governance in many churches.

Churches must submit their views by the end of next month. These will be included in the commission’s final report.