KwaSizabantu: SAHRC investigates 'human rights violations conducted in name of religion'

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Chanté Schatz
  • The SAHRC says its provincial office will investigate the serious allegations of human rights abuse levelled against KwaSizabantu.
  • It viewed the allegations in a serious light, said SAHRC CEO advocate Tseliso Thipanyane.
  • The CRL Rights Commission has asked those directly affected to share their stories to assist its official probe.

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will investigate the serious allegations of abuse levelled against KwaSizabantu in KwaZulu-Natal, SAHRC CEO advocate Tseliso Thipanyane has confirmed.

"What is [of] concern for the commission are the human rights violations conducted in the name of religion," Thipanyane said on Tuesday.

"The SAHRC respects the right to freedom of religion, opinion and belief, however this right cannot be exercised in blatant contravention of human rights as has been alleged in this matter."

READ | aQuellé pulled off shelves at Makro, Game, as Food Lover's cuts ties with KwaSizabantu companies

News24, after a seven-month investigation, revealed allegations of gross violations of human rights and alleged money laundering at one of Africa's biggest missions, founded 50 years ago in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

This has resulted in a flood of personal accounts from other former mission members sharing their own traumatic experiences at one of the biggest mission stations on the continent.

News24 recently reported on the alleged experiences of six women, who claim to have been raped, sexually abused, molested or assaulted at the mission as far back as the 1980s.


Koos Greeff, a once-respected leader at the mission, said he had acted as an informant for the apartheid government's Military Intelligence and Security Branch with the blessing of the KwaSizabantu leadership.

His alleged handler had moved to the mission in 1994.

The Hawks also confirmed to News24 that the Pietermaritzburg serious commercial crimes unit was investigating the allegations of fraud at KwaSizabantu.

READ | CRL Rights Commission launches official probe, urges former members to come forward

The mission has labelled the allegations levelled against it as a smear campaign.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) had, after the release of the series, urged anyone directly affected by alleged human rights abuses at KwaSizabantu Mission to share their stories to assist its official probe.

Today, a multibillion-rand establishment, KwaSizabantu owns aQuelle water, and supplies fruit and vegetables to the country's biggest supermarkets.

Thipanyane said the SAHRC viewed the allegations in the News24 series in a serious light and has asked its provincial office to investigate.

"The commission is also pleased to note that the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has also launched its own investigation into the cult and that retailer Woolworths has also stopped trading with the group in light of these serious allegations."

KwaSizabantu founder Erlo Stegen and his protégé, Lidie Dube, are two of the active directors in Emseni Farming, Ekhamanzi Springs, which owns aQuelle, and the KSB Trust.

Woolworths, on Tuesday, confirmed it had "ceased all orders with Emseni Farming while we await further information from them".

aQuelle, in a letter to its retail clients on Monday, said it had appointed an "external panel consisting of legal, political, business and grassroots level individuals" to investigate the allegations published by News24.

Massmart Holdings, owner of Makro, and Pick n Pay told Business Insider it had asked the supplier for answers to the allegations.

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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