- KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said the law should take its course if allegations at the KwaSizabantu Mission were proven.
- He added this would be done without fear or favour.
- Zikalala, however, rejected the move by retailers to ban KwaSizabantu's products.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has said if allegations of wrongdoing are proven at the KwaSizabantu Church Mission, then the law must take its course.
"We want to assure the public that indeed, if these allegations are proven, those responsible will have to be dealt with following the prescripts of our law. We will do that without fear or favour, offenders must always face disciplinary action or prosecution in this regard," he said on Sunday.
Zikalala was speaking about the mission during a Covid-19 media briefing.
He said "as part of our commitment to the protection of basic human rights", the KZN government had appointed a team led by Human Settlements MEC Peggy Nkonyeni to work with all stakeholders, especially the government, to establish facts and assist the ongoing investigation.
"We have also pledged our full support to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities [CRL Rights Commission] as a Chapter 9 institution, which is on the ground, leading the investigation."
Zikalala pleaded with all involved to "co-operate with the processes and the commission which is leading these investigations and tell the truth".
'KwaSizabantu product ban unfair and misinformed'
He, however, came out strongly against the ban on KwaSizabantu's products by retailers.
"We strongly believe that the ban on products from KwaSizabantu by some of the retailers is unfair and misinformed. It is wrong for retailers to ban such products while the investigation is ongoing. More importantly, most of the alleged human rights abuses seem to have happened some time ago.
"The worst to come is the devastating effect of jobs losses and then the perpetuation of poverty in the area."
Zikalala said he would "seek to engage with all retailers who have taken the decision to ban the KwaSizabantu products".
"We will plead with them to withdraw this ban but allow the investigations and prosecution of those implicated to unfold. For us, this is important. We want to be fair to all as we have seen in other institutions, they don't ban products but investigate and hold those found to be on the wrong side of the law accountable."
The mission has come under the spotlight following a News24 expose in which former members gave personal accounts of alleged sexual assault, physical and psychological abuse as well as financial crimes.