- The KwaSizabantu Mission says it is engaging with law enforcement to bring to book those involved in "vicious false allegations".
- It, however, denied the allegations contained in a News24 exposé regarding accounts of rape, physical and emotional abuse as well as allegations of financial crimes.
- The mission said it would appoint a review panel to investigate allegations of human rights abuses as well as "potential harm at the hands of a specific individual in the organisation and the role of leaders of the organisation".
The KwaSizabantu Mission says it is engaging with law enforcement "to bring to book those engaged in vicious false allegations" following an exposé published by News24 last week.
The exposé detailed allegations of rape, physical and emotional abuse as well financial crimes at the mission in its Exodus series.
In a "stakeholder response" statement on Wednesday, the mission vehemently denied the allegations contained in the reportage and would take action.
"[W]e are engaging with law enforcement agencies to bring to book those engaged in the vicious false allegations," the mission said, adding the allegations were "incorrect, hurtful and damaging".
"We have taken a little time to gear up our response as we have been absolutely shattered and devastated by the baseless and false allegations and social media onslaught.
"As we regroup, we will respond faster and with more details to both stakeholders and journalists."
The mission said it would appoint a review panel which would "differentiate between potential harm at the hands of a specific individual [sic] in the organisation and the role of leaders of the organisation".
"This will be done with the utmost care and diligence not to further any pain already potentially suffered," it said.
Regarding the "potential human rights abuse", the mission added it would launch an "independent review panel" to investigate criminal allegations.
It said the panel and its scope would be made available, as well as its report and findings.
The decisions follow consultations and advice from the mission's trustees, external advisors, clients and stakeholders.
On Tuesday, aQuellé announced it would be launching a review panel to investigate the allegations.
Leaders of the mission own Ekhamanzi Springs, which owns aQuellé.
"We are committed to absolute transparency," the mission said.
In a media statement titled "KwaSizabantu Mission is not a cult!" released on the same day, it said it was "confident" no financial irregularities had taken place.
"The mission is confident that neither it nor its associated businesses have committed any financial irregularity with respect to allegations of money laundering.
"The leadership of the mission takes their responsibilities and financial matters seriously and has nothing to hide."
It once again labelled News24's Exodus series as a "smear campaign" that resorts to libel and defamation.
"It smacks of racism, misguided, out-of-context narratives presented by disgruntled members of society," it said.
"People making such horrendous allegations against the mission are free to follow the normal lawful procedures.
The Exodus series, it said, undermined its work, adding "black South Africans will suffer".
"Young people struggling because of social ills will lose the benefit of the free services provided by the mission."
It maintained it is not a cult as labelled by those who allegedly suffered at the mission.
"[W]e are not a sect and we are not exclusive. KwaSizabantu Mission is a middle-of-the-road evangelical organisation with complete openness to other churches and organisations. We live harmoniously within the boundaries of the Christian faith."
It said thousands of people have visited the mission and received support "at the mission's own expense" for more than 50 years.
"No one has ever been forced to stay here. No employee or volunteer has ever been forced to work there."
The mission added it had invited ministers from various denominations and backgrounds to minister's conferences as well as to its radio station to preach since the beginning of its existence.
It said this indicates "that KSB does not believe that it alone has exclusive ownership of the truth. The doctrinal foundation and the religious beliefs of the mission are based on the Bible and the classical confessions of the church".
The mission added it had also never asked for church collections or money from visitors or incumbents.
"To date [since 2013] over 18 500 youths have flocked to the mission to receive help through the CYPSA restoration programme free of charge.
"For those employed in the various projects the mission has adhered to the relevant wage legislation, while providing jobs, skills and education to thousands of rural people to the benefit of many communities. The mission projects [including aQuellé and Emseni Farming] were founded to financially support the various ministries," it said.