Three years after damning allegations against leaders of the KwaSizabantu Missionary Organization (KSB) in KwaZulu-Natal came to light, another investigation found that the organization was not a cult, but could have “hurt some people within the organization”.
In addition, a book was published last month which deals with the way in which the media house News24 reported on the KSB saga in 2020. In September of that year, this news agency published a series of reports in which it was claimed that former members of the KSB had been raped and severely assaulted and that KSB leaders were guilty of financial crimes. In these reports, the organization was repeatedly referred to as a cult.
However, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) found in a recent report on KSB that the organization at Kranskop is not a cult and that the teachings and principles of the organization within the scope of freedom of belief. The commission also found that a rape did take place here, but that the perpetrator is already serving a prison sentence for this. As far as the practice of corporal punishment and virginity inspection is concerned, the commission found that the organization did practice these practices at one time, but had stopped in the meantime.
This is in line with similar findings made by an independent panel in October 2020.
“The commission found that the mission could indeed have hurt some of the complainants and or former members with some of the practices at the time, as the mission also admitted in their submissions to the commission,” says the CRL’s report. “The fact that these members are still coming forward in some cases decades later to share their painful experiences is proof that they are still hurting, even if some of the allegations could not be proven.”
The CRL could not make a finding in relation to allegations of money laundering and corruption made against some of the leaders, as an investigation into this does not fall within its mandate. The commission recommends that allegations of a criminal nature be lodged with the police.
RNews reported at the time that the Falcons were investigating allegations of fraud at KSB. The allegations of fraud were submitted to the Falcons by Arno Stegen. Stegen is a former trustee of KSB, as well as the nephew of the founder of the mission station, Erlo Stegen. Stegen left the mission station about two years ago.
Among other things, it is alleged that some of the leaders at KSB are involved in money laundering of approximately R136 million. Lt. Col. Simphiwe Mhlongo, spokesperson for the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal, says the matter is still being investigated and no one has yet been arrested in connection with this. “Due to the sensitive nature of the investigation, we cannot disclose any other information about this.”
Gerda Potgieter, author of the book Journey to the Truth: Were the Press Attacks on the KwaSizabantu Mission Unethical? believes, however, that these allegations are part of a smear campaign by relatives of the current head of KSM. Potgieter spent three years researching her book, which was released in August. She told RNews that she came to the conclusion that Stegen’s family members want to take over the management of the organization, which is why they are pushing the campaign through the media.
“I visited KSB several times myself. They do incredibly good work in the community. The claims that it is a cult and breaks up families are absolute nonsense. Children and women are also not held captive there and then raped or destroyed.”
In response to the CRL’s report, the KSB’s management said that they welcomed the publication of the report and were particularly happy about the finding that the organisation’s activities fall within the scope of freedom of belief.
“Any attempt to portray the organization as such is wrong and amounts to hate speech against a minority group and its members. It is also a clear violation of the right to freedom of religion.”
According to the statement, it has since come to light that “a small group of individuals conspired to take control of the mission. Their master plan was to feed the media with a barrage of allegations of the worst kind against the mission and its leadership.”
The organization’s management says criminal and complaints and civil claims have since been filed against some of these “conspirators”, who are currently serving in various courts.