An answer that is not an answer

KwaSizabantu still has nothing to say to its abuse victims except: All lies!

A preliminary remark.

 For the first time in 50 years, victims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse by Mission KwaSizabantu now dare to stand in front of cameras and microphones and report on their fate. In the fall of 2020, an audience of millions in South Africa will be fascinated and shocked by series of articles, podcasts and videos from the Internet portal News 24 about the hair-raising machinations of the “mission of horror”, as N24 calls it. The KwaSizabantu sect, which has been repeatedly confronted with allegations of abuse for decades, is coming under heavy pressure because the latest testimonies are not only so serious but also because they are visibly absolutely authentic for everyone online on video. Again and again it is women who report about the hell on the mission, where they have been raped or sexually abused and in return have been insulted by the mission leadership as whores or the guilty parties of the incidents. Question: Do women, some of whom report such terrible experiences after many years, burst into tears, or do they get crying fits when their story is made up, that is, lied? Do women, because they see sexual abuse and rape as a blemish in themselves, lack credibility because they dare to go public with this alleged blemish and their story? Are they notorious liars, because they always heard from the preachers of Mission KwaSizabantu that they themselves are to blame if they are raped or sexually abused – and according to this logic KwaSizabantu must be absolutely innocent?

An intermediate remark

On two days before the now available statement from KwaSizabantu on the serious allegations, the author of these lines received two phone calls. From two women. One in her late 30s, one in her early 20s, both  former supporters of KSB. Both from Germany.  We call them E. and A. here.

E. reported how she was sexually harassed several times by her uncle between the ages of 8 and 16.  When she told her parents,also members of KSB,  she was accused of developing wild fantasies. The accusations were not verified, they could not be true in the parents’ eyes. For the girl it was a shock, even today she suffers from the mistrust of her parents at that time – and the incidents with her uncle.  Years later, the uncle had long been married, he became ill. As was customary at KSB, he considered his illness as punishment for a sin not known to a pastor, and  for which he had not apologized. Then he remembered that there was something else with the niece. He wrote a letter to his brother, the father of the girl, asking for forgiveness. Not to the girl! To the father! He told his daughter about the letter by phone, but he didn’t say a word about the fact that he and his wife had made the daughter out to be a liar when she had reported the assaults. When she later left the mission, she was cursed by her pastor: “Now you belong to the realm of the devil”. 

A. told about her experiences with the leaders of the KwaSizabantu mission, Erlo and Friedel Stegen. Friedel Stegen, she could remember exactly, had spoken about clothing at a “sermon” and had gone so far as to claim that “women are to blame themselves if they are raped”. It was the sentence after which, at the age of 15, the girl decided to turn her back on the KwaSizabantu mission. When Erlo Stegen heard about this, he picked up the phone and called her from South Africa. He told her: “If you leave the mission, God will curse you”. 

Question: Are all these women in South Africa and Europe lying? Are they just making up stories because they feel like it? Shouldn’t the mind say that there must be some truth in so many grievances, so severe, with so much visible and palpable pain? Or are they so untrustworthy that this supposedly so Christian mission can, in a statement to the latest accusations, now brought to an audience of millions in Africa, say that they are “waging a campaign of slander with a ” vile tactic of defamation”?  For decades, the same accusations of abuse, rape, psychological manipulation, physical violence, financial exploitation, -everything is made up, lie, “vile tactics of defamation”? 

 One final remark:

Before the press release from KwaSizbantu follows here, one more thing. References to which and how many good deeds are done are no proof that there was no abuse. Indications that many pastors from all over the world came to KwaSizabantu for conferences and spoke there do not mean that terrible things have not happened behind the scenes of the mission. To claim that KSB is not a sect is not proof that KSB is not a sect. The assertion that KwaSizabantu has never asked for money is an assertion that does not exclude sexual abuse and criminal financial adventures. The assurance that the KwaSizabantu leadership takes its responsibility seriously in financial matters does not mean that millions have not been stolen – every bank robber takes financial matters seriously. The reference to the fact that black South Africans might possibly suffer from the consequences of press coverage of KwaSizabantu is an attempt to put the racism card that is always drawn when there are grievances in South Africa on the table instead of considering the reason for the coverage – rape, abuse, violations of human rights, violence, in short: crime. And finally, the Mission declares that the “alleged” victims should have “sought justice through the judicial system”.  KSB writes of the, “fact that these accusations were never brought to the authorities” and asks, “Why not? This is matched by the affidavit of a former Mission employee who was directly close to the closer leadership circle. In it it says:

“This cult, as always, used the Kranskop and Greytown police stations to cover up misdeeds and crimes involving members of the cult. Some, like the late Brig Chonco, were prominent members of the cult. Currently, as far as I know, the Station Commander at Kranskop SAP has a love affair with Jeffrey Newlands”.

This means that the leadership of KwaSizabantu could do whatever they wanted with the people on the mission – their victims had no chance against them and a corrupt, idle police force. The victims were trapped. Nobody wanted to and could help them. Erlo Stegen and Co. knew that. 

Here now the Press release of KwaSizabantu, signed by nobody, without reference to the author. It is a document of cynicism.

„The vicious attack on KwaSizabantu Missionis shocking. This media explosionaimsto spread rumours and destroy the humanitarian and spiritual work of this ChristianMission.Contrary to their claims, weare not a cult, we are not a sect and we are not exclusive. KwaSizabantu Missionis a middle of the road evangelicalorganisation with complete openness to other churches and organisations. We live harmoniously within the boundaries of the Christian faith.Throughout its existence,KwaSizabantu Missionhas invited ministers from various denominations and backgrounds to the ministers’conferences and radio station to preach and fellowship indicatingthatKSB does not believe that it alonehas exclusive ownership of the truth. The doctrinal foundation and the religious beliefs of the Mission are based on the Bible and the classical confessions of the church.Hundreds of thousands of people have visited KwaSizabantu Missionand received support and help at the Mission’s own expense for over 50 years.No one has ever been forced to stay there.No employee or volunteer has ever beenforced to work there.Since its inception, nochurch collections have been requested by theMission and neither visitor nor incumbent has been asked for money.To date (since2013) over 18 500 youths have flocked to the Mission to receive help through theCYPSA restoration programmefree of charge. For those employed in the various projects the Missionhas adhered to the relevantwage legislation, while providing jobs, skills and education to thousands of rural people to the benefit of many communities.The Mission projects (including aQuelléand Emseni Farming) were founded to financially support thevarious ministries.The Mission isconfident that neither itnor its associated businesses have committed any financial irregularity with respect to allegations of money laundering. The leadership of the Mission take their responsibilities and financial matters seriously and have nothing to hide.If the EXODUS articles undermine the essential work of the Mission, black South Africans will suffer. Young people struggling because of social ills will lose the benefit of the free services provided by the Mission.Those driving thecurrent smear campaign haveresorted tothe low tactics of libel and defamation. It smacks of racism, misguided, out-of-context narratives presented bydisgruntled members of society.People making such horrendous allegations against the Mission are free to follow the normal lawful procedures. Those who have been ‘allegedly’violated against,should seek justice through the judicial system. The fact that these allegations have never been taken to the authorities begs the question; why not? Why have the so-called victims not done what the lawrequires? Why blame the Mission?The Mission was founded to bring hope and healing, peace and restorationto a fractured South African society and is committed to continue doing so.“

Jens Nissen