28 September 05:35
PODCAST | EXODUS Chapter 2: The Road
KwaSizabantu in KZN stands accused of gross human rights violations after News24 published a series of articles, revealing a string of abuses at the mission.
28 September 05:32
'I was 5 years old': More allegations mount, but KwaSizabantu says virginity testing stopped in 2002
Virginity testing on girls as young as five, threatening to chop off the hands of children accused of stealing, an ingrained fear of damnation, and beatings bad enough to leave you struggling to sit - these are some of the allegations made by former members of KwaSizabantu Mission.
25 September 12:26
Absa Cape Epic drops aQuellé as sponsor, Orlando Pirates monitors probe
The organisers of the Absa Cape Epic, the annual mountain bike race, have decided to drop aQuellé as a sponsor for the event following allegations of impropriety, abuse and money laundering at the religious mission linked to the water brand.
25 September 08:37
Evangelist Peter Hammond backs KwaSizabantu Mission, says claims are part of a 'smear campaign'
Evangelist and missionary, Dr Peter Hammond, has defended the KwaSizabantu Mission in the wake of a hard-hitting News24 documentary whichhe described as "a hostile horror film".
23 September 16:16
The mission told News24:
"...we now address further grave allegations and how we are dealing with them. From the onset, we deny the allegations in the strongest possible way. They are incorrect, hurtful and damaging.
To address the allegations, we have taken board advice from our trustees, external advisors, clients and stakeholders. We are committed to absolute transparency. With regards to the allegations of potential human rights abuse, we are taking the following action:
1. Appointing an independent review panel to investigate the criminal allegation in this regard; and
2. The panel and its scope will be made available 3. The report and findings of the panel will also be made available.
Further to this, we are engaging with law enforcement agencies to bring to book those engaged in the vicious false allegations."
More to follow
23 September 13:11
23 September 11:18
A Massmart spokesperson told News24 the recall of aQuelle was "going well" and that individual customers were returning stock "because they don't want to be associated with the product".
On Tuesday, the company, that owns the brands Makro and Game, announced it would immediately withdraw all aQuelle products from their stores.
23 September 10:00
WRAP | How major retailers responded after allegations levelled against KwaSizabantu
KwaSizabantu and its affiliated businesses were in the eye of a storm on Tuesday. Investigations have been launched and major retailers suspended business with the mission.
23 September 09:55
Musa Zondi | Prayers instead of ARVs: How I lost my friend Busi to the KwaSizabantu cult
Musa Zondi recalls his childhood at KwaSizabantu Mission, but also losing a friend to HIV/Aids who had worked at the mission.
22 September 20:33
There have been major moves surrounding KwaSizabantu Mission on Tuesday, after several reports by News24 detailing allegations of human rights violations and fraud.
Retailers who have been supplied with products owned by KwaSizabantu have demanded answers, with some having cut ties with those companies. The police have also been let loose on the controversial KwaZulu-Natal mission.
KwaSizabantu is the owner of aQuellé bottled water and vegetable supplier Emseni Farming.
Here is a rundown of Tuesday’s coverage:
Bottles of aQuellé have been pulled off shelves at Makro and Game, as Food Lover’s market and Spur cut ties with companies associated with KwaSizabantu. Pick ‘n Pay and Makro have demanded answers from KwaSizabantu amid allegations of human rights abuses.
Woolworths halted buying products from a supplier owned by KwaSizabantu, pending more information on the allegations made against the company. Spar has also cut ties with all suppliers owned by the mission.
aQuellé itself said it will appoint a panel to investigate allegations contained in News24’s reports, but labelled the exposé as “vicious” and “sensational”.
Meanwhile, police minister Bheki Cele confirmed police are investigating the mission, but would not give details.
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities has also launched a probe, and has encouraged anyone who has been involved with the mission to come forward.
The SA Human Rights Commission also confirmed an investigation on Tuesday, into what it deems as human rights violations in the name of religion.
- On Wednesday at 18:00, News24 holds a live discussion with the reporters who broke the KwaSizabantu story. Get more information here, or sign up for the event.
- News24 subscribers can view the entire special report here.
- Compiled by Kerushun Pillay
22 September 18:10
Walmart-owned Massmart – owner of Makro and Game – and Food Lover’s Market have joined Spar and Woolworths in cutting ties with the businesses associated with the controversial KwaSizabantu mission in KwaZulu-Natal.
On Tuesday, employees at Makro were seen removing aQuellé water from store shelves, and Massmart confirmed that it has severed ties with the supplier.
“In light of the serious allegations in ongoing media reports, Massmart has suspended the sale of aQuelle water, which is manufactured by Ekhamanzi, pending the outcome of their own internal, and recently confirmed South African Police Services and independent third party, investigations,” a spokesperson said.
22 September 16:47
Spar has followed Woolworths in severing ties with the businesses associated with KwaSizabantu.
Spar group merchandise executive Mike Prentice confirmed to Business Insider that the group has suspended orders from Ekhamanzi Springs, which owns the water brand aQuellé, as well as for fruit and vegetables from Emseni Farming. In KwaZulu-Natal, some Spar franchises also sell Bonlé, a yogurt brand which is associated with KwaSizabantu.
At a national level, the chain has decided not to place new orders with all business associated with KwaSizabantu.
The Spar distribution centre has put on hold the ordering of fresh stock with immediate effect, however stores may still sell products that remain on shelves.
22 September 15:54
The South African Human Rights Commission says it views the allegations contained in a series of reports by News24 about KwaSizabantu Mission "in a serious light and have engaged our KwaZulu-Natal office to investigate the matter."
News24 reported, among other things, of human rights violations at the mission.
The SAHRC's CEO, advocate Tseliso Thipanyane, said: "The Commission is also pleased to note that the Kwa-Zulu 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.
"What is concern for the Commission are the human rights violations conducted in the name of religion. 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."
22 September 15:30
Police Minister Bheki Cele has confirmed that there are investigations going on about KwaSizabantu mission. He said there are "people who have a relationship with KwaSizabantu who have raised issues with the mission."
The minister says that while he knows about the mission he does not know anyone from there. He says he has "no personal understanding" about it, and has never been there.
He did not want to elaborate on the investigations.
Police minister Bheki Cele was asked the question by a News24 reporter on the back of an address about Level 1 lockdown regulations.
News24 at the weekend published damning allegations of corruption and abuse of congregants at the KZN mission.
22 September 14:05
aQuellé has appointed an external panel consisting of "legal, political, business and grassroots level individuals" to investigate allegations published in a News24 exposé which revealed claims of gross human rights abuse and financial crimes at Mission KwaSizabantu.
This development is contained in a letter sent to its retail clients on Monday.
22 September 13:01
REGISTER NOW | Q&A with the team that exposed the KwaSizabantu cult in KwaZulu-Natal
Founded in 1970 by missionary Reverend Erlo Stegen, the KwaSizabantu Mission is nestled in the green and lush Valley of a Thousand Hills.
22 September 12:19
Exodus | 'I will never go back' - leaving KwaSizabantu after more than two decades
It's been 11 months since Gert de Vries packed up his possessions and left KwaSizabantu with his family and loaded their furniture onto a borrowed trailer after devoting their lives to the mission for more than two decades.
22 September 10:55
Adriaan Basson | Want to stop a cult? Then don't buy aQuellé bottled water
On Saturday, News24 published the result of a seven-month investigation into allegations of gross human rights violations and abuse at KwaSizabantu Mission. You can make a difference by not buying their unholy water, writes Adriaan Basson.
22 September 10:41
KwaSizabantu 'cult': Woolworths halts buying from supplier, offers to help authorities
Woolworths has stopped doing business with the fruit and vegetable supplier owned by the controversial KwaSizabantu, as it awaits further information about allegations of abuse and fraud at the mission.
22 September 10:24
22 September 10:16
Pick n Pay and Makro demand answers from KwaSizabantu amid abuse allegations
Pick n Pay and Makro have reached out to KwaSizabantu, the owner of aQuellé sparkling water and vegetable supplier Emseni Farming, for answers as its KwaZulu-Natal mission stands accused of gross human rights violations and abuse.
22 September 10:15
KwaSizabantu: CRL Rights Commission launches official probe, urges former members to come forward
The CRL Rights Commission confirmed it would investigate allegations of human rights abuse at KwaSizabantu.
22 September 10:08
KwaSizabantu: Stay strong, preacher tells congregants in the face of abuse allegations
Sunday service at KwaSizabantu Mission near Kranskop in KwaZulu-Natal went ahead virtually, and was broadcast on its radio station and YouTube channel, with the preacher urging congregants to stay strong in the face of allegations of rape, sexual and financial misconduct.
22 September 10:08
EXCLUSIVE | Exodus: Uncovering sexual crimes and missing millions at a KZN 'cult'
After an investigation of seven months, News24 can today reveal the depth of the rot at KwaSizabantu (KSB), one of the biggest missions in Africa started by German preacher Erlo Stegen in 1970 at Kranskop, northern KwaZulu-Natal.
22 September 10:07
Exodus | 'They are never going to break me' - from KSB, to street child, to the small screen
Marietjie Bothma earns a living by making people feel good. She gets a crowd going at events she hosts and made TV audiences laugh as the indecisive blonde who speaks fluent Zulu in a King Pie ad.
22 September 10:07
Exodus | 'I'm deeply ashamed': Former KSB employee on how he spied for apartheid security forces
"I am deeply ashamed," Greeff said of acting as an informant for the state while working as a missionary at KwaSizabantu, a haven he described as "such a gentle, friendly place" when he had arrived there.