- Police Minister Bheki Cele denies having any personal relationships at, or visiting, KwaSizabantu Mission.
- A former member recalls seeing Cele "and his hat" at the mission in the early 2000s.
- Cele also denied being at KwaSizabantu when News24 posed the question at a media briefing last week.
Bheki Cele has denied that he attended any event or has any personal relationship with the KwaSizabantu Mission in KwaZulu-Natal.
The police minister made the denial after a former member said he had seen Cele at the mission some years back.
Speaking on Cape Talk on Monday, Sipho Hlongwane, a former member, said he had seen some prominent politicians during his time at the mission.
"I remember Bheki Cele and his hat very clearly in my mind there," Hlongwane told host Lester Kiewit.
He also told News24 that he remembered Cele attending a conference at the mission in the early 2000s.
A 50-year old Christian mission in KZN stands accused of gross violations of human rights, turning a blind eye to sexual abuse & alleged money laundering. After an investigation of seven months, News24 can today reveal the depth of the rot at KwaSizabantu.https://t.co/MmU4YGJlxD— News24 (@News24) September 19, 2020
Following Hlongwane's interview, News24 approached the minister for comment - for a second time.
"Minister [Cele] once again says he has absolutely no personal relationship with anyone from this mission, has never attended any event there. Nor has he been on a personal or official visit to the church," spokesperson Lirandzu Themba said.
News24 previously asked Cele about his relationship with the mission during a media briefing last week.
Cele responded by saying he "know[s] nobody" at the mission.
"I have no personal understanding. KwaSizabantu, I only know it as I drive past. It's a mission we grew up knowing, I still know it [but] I've never been there," Cele previously said.
KwaSizabantu Mission stands accused of gross human rights abuses, as well as financial crimes, spanning a number of years.
News24 published an extensive exposé on the mission, detailing allegations of sexual assault, physical and emotional abuse, as well as money laundering at the mission.
The church has been described as a "cult" by former members, who opened up about their experiences at the mission.
KwaSizabantu has broadly denied that it is a cult, saying the allegations levelled against it and its leaders are part of a "smear campaign".
It says it has done nothing wrong.
The mission has since established an independent review panel to investigate the claims.