Exodus from troubled KZN mission

The exodus of worshippers affiliated with the controversial Kranskop Christian mission station kwaSizabantu is growing steadily following the resignation of a key pastor.

Barney Mabaso, a leading light who led a branch of the kwaSizabantu church in Tugela Ferry, cut ties with the mission last month, taking his 350-strong congregation with him.

Now worshippers from other kwaSizabantu branches – concerned with developments at the mission – are jumping ship to follow Mabaso.

Mabaso’s departure has led to a dispute over property with the leadership of kwaSizabantu and to accusations that mission leader Erlo Stegen has been “using” black mission members to raise money abroad.

Mabaso disassociated himself from the mission because of events there in the past few years, including the alleged staging of the kidnapping of a female leader at kwaSizabantu in 1997.

Last week, Mabaso’s son, Desmond Mabaso – who was born and bred at the mission and is now a businessman in Durban – told The Natal Witness that congregants from the Mtunzini, Ulundi, Claridge and Amersfort branches of the mission are quitting kwaSizabantu to join his father.

Mabaso junior believes there should be a commission of inquiry into the affairs of kwaSizabantu, both in the apartheid era and at present.

He also wants a probe into the mission’s alleged links with the former defence force as well as an answer to “what happened to the black people who came to the mission and were taken away by the soldiers”.

“I am very worried about what is going on there. It is time everybody knew. We have been keeping quiet for years,” Mabaso said in a telephonic interview with the Witness.

Mabaso said the withdrawal of his father led to a dispute with kwaSizabantu leaders over the property at the Tugela Ferry mission.

“The leaders started making arrangements to take over the Tugela Ferry property after my father left. They claimed it was theirs. My father disputed this and managed to get the original papers. He said not a cent had come from kwaSizabantu for Tugela Ferry. The money to build the mission was raised by the local congregation.”

Mabaso confirmed claims that his father’s withdrawal from the mission has led to a campaign by kwaSizabantu leaders to discredit him.

“Erlo Stegen is overseas right now, blackening my father’s name, and saying that my father is living in sin, which congregants in Tugela Ferry can clearly see is a glaring lie. A German organisation that donated desks and a kombi to Tugela Ferry wants it back and another organisation in Switzerland is asking for their money back.

“Fortunately, local congregations are not believing these stories.”

Mabaso junior confirmed that a key issue leading to his father’s resignation was the alleged cover-up by mission leaders of an orchestrated kidnapping of a female leader of the mission in 1997. The incident recently made headlines in some newspapers in Europe, where the mission has branches.

Mabaso junior confirmed reports by other people who have spoken to the Witness, that in 1997, one of the mission’s rising stars, Lydia Dube, approached a senior member of the mission’s security operation, Jannie le Roux, to organise for a Durban security company to be paid R4 000 to stage her kidnapping after she fell out of favour with other leaders.

Many mission members still believed the kidnapping was genuine until recently, when Dube confessed to KSB co-workers that she knew who the alleged kidnappers were. Dube was subsequently expelled from the mission.

Asked to comment on the allegations of the mission’s links with the defence force during apartheid, mission spokesman Fano Sibisi said: “That is an old story. We say if any criminal acts have been performed by the mission, the law should take its course.”

Asked whether the mission would be prepared to be subjected to a commission of inquiry, Sibisi said: “If it was something open and legal, we have nothing to fear.”

kwaSizabantu hit the headlines earlier this year, when startling allegations of cult-like activities, pupil beating, virginity testing and excommunications emerged.