KwaSizabantu hearings: Key witness yet to testify as process stalls once again

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The CRL is investigating claims of gross human rights abuses at the KwaSizabantu Mission.
The CRL is investigating claims of gross human rights abuses at the KwaSizabantu Mission.
PHOTO: Chanté Schatz/News24
  • CRL chairperson Professor David Mosoma says the testimony of a key witness in the KwaSizabantu investigation remains outstanding, without which it is not yet able to conclude its probe.
  • Three months have passed since the commission heard the response to the allegations of gross human rights allegations claims from former members.
  • Meanwhile, one of the mission leaders has instituted legal proceedings against a witness for defamation.

Over three months after what was meant to be the final testimony in the hearings into allegations of gross human rights abuses at KwaSizabantu Mission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) is yet to hear from one of the key implicated individuals.

CRL chairperson Professor David Mosoma told News24 some of those meant to answer to the commission had already left the mission.

Two have already testified, but the last witness had been hospitalised.

News24 understands this to be one of KwaSizabantu’s leaders, Lidia Dube, 70.

Mosoma, who did not reveal the witness' identity, said the person’s testimony was considered important and every effort must be made to get their response.

He said the commission was also handed two files, which the mission said answered questions raised during the hearing.

READ | KwaSizabantu finally in the hot seat over abuse allegations - but no media allowed at CRL Commission

He said:

We will be going back. Once we have interviewed the last implicated person, the report will be completed.

"We are organising the [last engagement]. The matter is not out of our gaze… We cannot miss one step - everybody has to be given the right of reply."

The mission finally stated its case to the Chapter 9 institution in March without the media present, as requested through their lawyers to the CRL.

This is after former members testified of excessive violence meted out against children, sexual impropriety, spiritual abuse and other human rights infringements they say they had endured at one of the continent’s oldest mission stations.

The hearings came after a seven-month investigation by News24 into claims of gross human rights abuses at the KwaZulu-Natal institution, which resulted in the Exodus series. Following a public outcry and boycott of KwaSizabantu’s business enterprises, the CRL announced formal proceedings which commenced in 2020.

In February, the sessions resumed following an almost two-year hiatus caused by Covid-19.

And while the former members wait for the commission to conclude the process and release its findings, a witness who testified earlier this year is being sued by one of the mission leaders.

Koos Greeff was one of the people interviewed by News24, who revealed he had acted as an informant for the apartheid government's Military Intelligence and Security Branch with the blessing of the KwaSizabantu leadership. He had spent 17 years at the mission before leaving in 1994.

During the hearings, he told the commission that KwaSizabantu was a "septic cult", citing his Masters’ research thesis in which he probed the management structure of the mission.

According to papers served on him last week, Lidia Dube and Eunice Ngcamu are suing him for defamation, seeking a cumulative R4m.

READ | Given a hearing: Ex-KwaSizabantu members finally have their say as CRL probe resumes

Dube cited three instances where Greeff allegedly defamed her, one of which was Greeff’s testimony before the CRL.

Greeff, a former high-ranking member of the mission, was asked by the commission what he thought would happen once mission founder Erlo Stegen dies.

He responded that until now, Stegen had been the "romantic figure, an illuminated person who is the man or woman of God, a person with special knowledge and revelation" of whom everyone was in awe.

But he testified that, as a result of Stegen's dementia, Dube was being moulded to take his place.

"She was there at the revival, she was the young person," he said, referring to the claim preached at KwaSizabantu that Dube had died and come back to life in the 1960s.

He said: 

She went to heaven, God spoke to her. And that is a lie, that whole story is a lie… She is the voice of God and that is why my investigation, for instance, the money laundering - she is the sole responsible person in all this. She initiated it, she instigated this – who, where, how, and they did it.

Dube is claiming R1m in damages to her "good name, status and reputation".

The second, according to her papers, relates to an affidavit on behalf of his Erlo’s brother Friedel, Greeff’s father-in-law, of whom he had power of attorney.  Greeff, who is married to Stegen’s niece, accused Dube of trying to cover up theft from the mission’s auditors and that she, together with Ngcamu, signed false resolutions “unlawfully and fraudulently consenting to the theft” while also manipulating the mission founder into adding his signature.

The statement made in 2019 also describes "rumours" that some of the mission leadership is "wholly corrupt and immoral" as true, that the ailing Stegen’s infirmity has led him to being misused and manipulated to “cover up their own illegal and sinful acts” to their financial benefit and that these "corrupted leaders" were involved with witch doctors, drug dealer and hired assassins.

According to the plaintiffs, the words were intended to paint them as thieves, immoral, corrupt, deceitful, fraudsters and guilty of unlawful conduct, among others.

Claiming damages of R1m each, they said they were humiliated and degraded and had suffered damage to their good names, status and reputations.

READ | Cape Town woman's harrowing account of what it was like to be raised in a cult

The third R1m claim by Dube revolves around a voice note made by Greeff at the end of that year in which he accuses her and her "cohorts" of "misusing a vulnerable sick man to steal money, at least R150m".

In the voice note Greeff said a claim that the controversy surrounding the mission being nothing other than a fight between Stegen and Friedel was a lie propagated by Dube, which she sold to Stegen and the "vulnerable old man believed it".

She claimed the intention was to defame her and injure her reputation as being, among others, a liar, untrustworthy and someone who abused her position to manipulate a fellow leader of the mission.

Greeff told News24 he would be contesting the suit and was consulting with his lawyers.

"I stand by what I said," he said.

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