KwaSizabantu leader's daughter accused of sexual assault, 'horrified' at allegations

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Bothma testifies before the CRL Rights Commission on Thursday about her years of abuse at KwaSizabantu Mission.
Bothma testifies before the CRL Rights Commission on Thursday about her years of abuse at KwaSizabantu Mission.
Azarrah Karrim
  • After being implicated in allegations of sexual assault, Ruth Combrink said she was "horrified at the personal attack" against her and her sister, Elisabeth Vermaak.
  • On Thursday, the CRL Rights Commission heard testimony from Marietjie Bothma, who said she was made to "suck on the breasts" of Combrink and Vermaak.
  • Combrink said the allegations had been refuted by a housekeeper, a nanny and Bothma's "only biological sibling".

Spokesperson for controversial KwaSizabantu Mission, Ruth Combrink, says she is "horrified" at allegations of sexual assault against her and her sister, Elisabeth Vermaak - calling them a "personal attack".

READ | Daughters of KwaSizabantu leader implicated in allegations of sexual assault

Both Combrink and Vermaak are daughters of the mission’s leader, Erlo Stegen, and were implicated in harrowing testimony of sexual assault before the CRL Rights Commission on Thursday.

Combrink acted as the spokesperson for the mission as well as a general manager at popular bottled water company aQuellé.

The commission was investigating allegations of abuse at KwaSizabantu following a News24 exposé detailing allegations of sexual assault, physical and psychological abuse as well as financial crimes at the mission.

Marietjie Bothma testified at the commission about years of abuse at KwaSizabantu which, she said, started in the Stegen family household.

Bothma said she was made to "suck on the breasts" of Combrink and Vermaak as a child, who told her they were playing a game and that they were "playing the moms".

"When we would talk about it, they used to punish me by putting pepper water in my mouth - I was only a child, [younger] than five," Botha sobbed.

However, on Friday Combrink said the mission was "repulsed by the allegations" and "strongly rebuts" it.

Combrink said she was "horrified at the personal attack on her and her sister" as Bothma had always been treated as part of the family, according to a statement issued by the mission.

The mission said the allegations had been "refuted" by a "long-serving housekeeper", a nanny as well as Bothma's "only biological relative", Anita van der Watt.

According to the mission, Van der Watt deposed to an affidavit, in which she stated: "The childhood memories in Reverend Stegen's home are of the best I have... Over the past 34 years (of being on the Mission), I have never witnessed any leader at the Mission physically, mentally or emotionally abusing anyone. The Mission people have never oppressed me. The Mission has never forced me to confess my sins."

Combrink further said the mission wanted the truth to be heard and for alleged victims to receive healing.

She said there was evidence which indicated these allegations were being driven by a part of the family that split from the mission, in an attempt to discredit the leadership and the values of the KwaSizabantu Mission so as to gain power over the commercial interests the mission "has so successfully developed".

The CRL was expected to continue its hearings next week.

ALSO READ | 'Beaten until they peed in their pants' - Former KwaSizabantu member testifies at CRL Commission

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