Absa Cape Epic drops aQuellé as sponsor, Orlando Pirates monitors probe

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  • The organisers of the Absa Cape Epic have decided to drop aQuellé as a sponsor after a News24 exposé revealed alleged human rights abuses and financial crimes at KwaSizabantu Mission.
  • Orlando Pirates Football Club separately said it would monitor authorities' probes, as well as the mission's "independent review panel" to ensure adherence to the club's code of conduct.
  • The Southern African Christian School's Sports Association also said it would wait for the investigations to conclude.

The organisers of the Absa Cape Epic, the annual mountain bike race, have decided to drop aQuellé as a sponsor for the event following allegations of impropriety, abuse and money laundering at the religious mission linked to the water brand.

READ | aQuellé to appoint multidisciplinary panel to investigate 'vicious' media allegations

"We became aware of the allegations via media reports. As soon as this happened, we took the decision to remove aQuellé as a sponsor of the Absa Cape Epic.

"The Absa Cape Epic prides itself on being an event of the utmost integrity and was shocked and disturbed by the allegations," head of marketing and communications for the event, Sarah Harrop, told News24 on Friday.

The decision follows News24's series on the alleged human rights abuses and financial crimes at KwaSizabantu Mission in KwaZulu-Natal.

The mission's leaders are the owners of Ekhamanzi Springs, which owns aQuellé.

aQuellé has sponsored the Absa Cape Epic since 2018. However, the event did not take place this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Harrop said.

ALSO READ | Adriaan Basson: Want to stop a cult? Then don't buy aQuellé bottled water

She added that other than providing bottled water for the event, aQuellé had no other involvement.

Harrop said they were also aware that the allegations were being investigated by the authorities.

Orlando Pirates

Meanwhile, one of the country's most followed sporting teams, Orlando Pirates Football Club, which is also sponsored by aQuellé, released a statement saying it would follow the probes of both the mission and the authorities "to ensure adherence with the club's code of conduct, pledge and the rule of law".

"Over the weekend, News24 published an article that contained allegations of gross human rights violations at the premises of one of Orlando Pirates Football Club's sponsors, Mission KwaSizabantu.

"We at Orlando Pirates Football Club are all bound by our code of conduct and pledge that unequivocally state our value system and processes we are compelled to take in response to these situations. Under no circumstances is condonation an option. No allegation is small enough to overlook," the club said in a statement published on its website on Thursday.

It added that it had received correspondence from the mission informing it that the mission was appointing an "independent review panel" to investigate the criminal allegations.

The club said it would follow the matter closely.

At the same time, the Southern African Christian School's Sports Association (Sacssa) said it would wait for the investigations to conclude before deciding on aQuellé sponsorship.

aQuellé has sponsored its athletics event for more than 15 years.

Asked whether the association had concerns about aQuellé sponsorship or whether it would review its relationship with the company, national coordinator Johan du Plessis said it depended "upon the outcomes of the investigations by the South African law enforcement agencies".

"We trust and pray for all involved, that hearts will be protected and that the truth will prevail," Du Plessis said.

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