Exodus | What is KwaSizabantu Mission?

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This story is part of a seven-month News24 investigation into accusations of gross human rights violations, alleged money laundering and turning a blind eye to sexual abuse. To read our full production, click here: Exodus | Uncovering a cult in KwaZulu-Natal


KwaSizabantu Mission was founded 50 years ago by missionary Reverend Erlo Stegen.

Nestled in the rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal, the mission is situated between Kranskop and Maphumulo.

On its website, it describes itself as a "non-denominational Christian mission station that reaches out to people of all racial and cultural groups bringing a message of repentance and hope and providing spiritual guidance, educational support and counselling".

According to one of its pamphlets, people from all backgrounds "flock" to the mission, seeking help for issues such as addiction and mental and psychological problems.

"Criminals and murderers" also come to "settle their case with God".

Others, it said, came to KwaSizabantu for spiritual enrichment, "for an encounter with God".

Stegen had been a missionary for 12 years when the "revival broke out" among Zulu people in 1966.

Erlo Stegen.
Reverend Erlo Stegen.

In When God Came Down, a sermon by Stegen, he claimed a witch who taught others witchcraft and who had been possessed by demons had been the first of the masses to arrive.

Following this "outpouring of the Holy Spirit" at Maphumulo, KwaSizabantu was established to assist those who sought food and shelter.

Vision

This after he purchased a 140ha farm in 1970, which is now four times the size.

According to Stegen's version, one Sister Thofozi - or Lidia Dube - in 1973 became ill and died, "but the Lord raised her up again".

He said, when she "returned", she established a youth ministry.

Today, Dube is referred to as Stegen's second in charge.

On "wild and undeveloped" land, accommodation and later a church were built. This soon became too small for the growing congregation, Stegen said in his sermon.

A 10 000-seater auditorium was constructed where Sunday services take place. Opened in 1990, it was destroyed in a fire in 2008.

The Witness at the time reported that the 18m-high building was "bigger than a football field" and had been razed by the inferno, believed to have been started by an electrical fault.

The station commissioner at Kranskop, Superintendent Chonco, at the time told the publication firefighters were unable to reach the blaze before the whole building had been destroyed in a matter of about 20 minutes.

KwaSizabantu in KwaZulu-Natal.
The mission in KwaZulu-Natal is one of the biggest on the continent.

It has since been rebuilt.

The mission has a number of non-profit initiatives and successful commercial enterprises which provide funds for activities and educational facilities.

Yoghurt is made in its dairy, baked goods are produced in its bakery and peppers and avocados are grown and distributed by big names such as Woolworths and Spar.

aQuelle water is also bottled on site. The bottling operation, according to Stegen, started after a child told him of a dream of "treasure hidden in the ground".

The compound also has a school, rehabilitation centre and teachers' college.

Do you have a KwaSizabantu story to tell? Email us at exodus@24.com.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article and you need someone to talk to, please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) on one of these numbers:

  • To speak to a counsellor between 8am and 8pm Monday to Saturday, phone 011 234 4837
  • For a suicidal emergency, call 0800 567 567
  • For the 24-hour helpline, call 0800 456 789.
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