Everything will now run normally again on the mission KwaSizabantu, the mission’s own radio station Khwezi had promised last weekend. After all, the result of the investigations of the so-called “Independent Panel” commissioned and paid by KSB about the accusations against the mission on last Friday, 20 October 2020, still sounded like an outright acquittal. (See: https://www.ksb-alert.com/nothing-no-evidence-no-proofs-no-evidence/ ) And the half-hour press statement afterwards also suggested that the Mission leadership could sit back and relax for the moment. But no sooner had the report from the lawyers Khumbu Shazi and Peter le Mottee arrived three days later outside of KwaSizabantu than it became clear that nothing on the mission would run normally again and that it was not possible to sit back and relax – because there was no question of an acquittal. On the contrary.
Dodging, deceiving and covering up are actually a specialty of the KwaSizabantu mission, but their lawyer Keith Mathee showed during the presentation of the panel report that he is quite good at it. He deceived the public by omitting, he covered up key findings by not mentioning them, and weighed the accusations against his clients of KSB by the false conclusion that there was no evidence of anything and that KwaSizabantu was innocent. What Mathee was visibly upset about was a farce. Because a large part of what is in the final report of the panel lawyers Shazi and le Mottee gives the Mission KwaSizabantu a miserable testimony and confirms accusations that have been made against KSB for more than two decades – but have always been rejected by the Mission. A good part of the report is not an acquittal – it is a conviction. It proves that for the leadership of the KwaSizabantu mission, deception and cover-ups have always been important instruments in dealing with the public.
Let’s start with one of the most recent lies that the Mission has been maintaining for years, but whose unmasking we now owe to the report: the false and deceptive statements about the state of health of Mission Founder Erlo Stegen, whom they also call the “eyeball of God” on the Mission. Again and again KSB denied that the boss was demented, but the panel report clarifies the matter:
The original text of the report is:
Interview with Rev Stegen
178. Prior to visiting the Mission we had been informed by various parties we had interviewed that Rev Stegen had dementia.
179. Mr Greeff told us that in May 2017 he was at the Mission and had met Rev Stegen. He stated that Rev Stegen could not remember his (Mr Greeff’s) name. Rev Stegen asked him for his name 5 times.
180. Mr Greeff further stated that he analysed one of Rev Stegen’s sermons in 2018 and discovered that he had repeated something 13 times. He stated that Rev Stegen had been diagnosed with onset dementia and that he was being treated by a neurologist in Durban.
181. Dr Botha told us that Rev Stegen shared details of the loan to Ndlela with him in 2016. He stated that in 2014 the doctor told the Stegen family that Rev Stegen was beginning to show signs of dementia. He stated further that in December 2017 and on the first two Sundays of 2018, Rev Stegen delivered sermons, and one could tell that his mind was not working properly.
182. Dr Botha told us that Rev Stegen was no longer in control and consequently has been taken ‘out of circulation’ at the Mission.
183. Other witnesses told us that no one was allowed to see Rev Stegen since 2018.
184. At the Mission we interviewed Dr Abu van Eeden and Ruth Combrink about Rev Stegen’s condition. We were informed that Rev Stegen was of sound mind, except that he had occasional forgetfulness which was related to old age. We were also informed that he had not been well as he had undergone several surgeries in recent months. We were told that access to him had been restricted because of Covid-19 concerns.
185. We were granted permission to speak to Rev Stegen.
186. During our interview with Rev Stegen we gleaned the following:
186.1. Rev Stegen did not understand most of our questions;
186.2. he could not answer most of our questions;
186.3. he repeated himself quite often;
186.4. he had moments of lucidity when he understood what we were saying and would give appropriate and relevant answers, but these were few.
187. It became clear to us that the Mission had downplayed Rev Stegen’s condition. We decided to not proceed with the interview as Rev Stegen was clearly not in a position to participate meaningfully.
After clarifying this, we turn to the points in the final paper of the so called “Independent Panel” paid by KSB, which do not belong to the “acquittal” variety. Thus, the report reports several times about “disturbing” and “worrying” practices at the mission and accuses the mission leadership of a lack of accountability. Sometimes the panel paper considers the “blind faith” in the mission in the infallibility of Erlo Stegen to be questionable, sometimes it criticizes an unacceptable level of corporal punishment of students by mission staff. Then again, the two lawyers in the report are alarmed by the fact that the directors of the KSB company Ekhamanzi, to which a Quelle belongs, have no idea how the company’s employees are paid. In particular, the illiterate Eunice Ngcamu, as a director, knows next to nothing about the company she is responsible for. The report also criticizes the way the mission has dealt with the accusations made 20 years ago by the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, and attests to its lack of objectivity and willingness to account for its actions.
What the Mission’s advocates recommend in their paper at the end sometimes corresponds to what the Mission has always recommended in vain, but the corresponding sentences in the report are almost an earthquake for the Mission. For the Mission’s own lawyers recommend that the Mission make reparations to its victims and advise it to work towards healing relationships and reconciliation with those who have become alienated from the Mission. The self-appointed panel criticizes the leadership structure of the mission, recommends the dissolution of the governing body – and an election of the members of the governing body by the members of the mission. Even becoming part of a larger Christian “grouping” is advised by lawyers paid by KSB to help the mission KwaSizabantu overcome the challenges it faces.
Although the report euphemizes the allegations of abuse, rape, and psychological and physical violence in KwaSizabantu and speaks almost exclusively of a lack of evidence, it is a fact that the KwaSizabantu Mission has never, in the course of its existence, received so much criticism and revolutionary recommendations from its own ranks.
Since the result of the investigations of the lawyers commissioned and paid by KwaSizabantu itself has a low priority in the overall context of the scandals surrounding the mission, – the presentation made it clear that KwaSizabantu was solely concerned with self-exoneration, probably also to bring back on board the corporations that had left the business relations with KSB – here are just a few quotes from the panel report .
Having made that finding however, there are some practices that we found concerning and need to be addressed. These are dealt with in the main report and under our recommendations.
Our investigation did however uncover issues that were of grave concern to us regarding a loan which was advanced by the Mission, to a person known as Ndlela. These are discussed in more detail in the main report.
We found that the employees at the Mission and its affiliated companies are remunerated timeously and in monetary form as required by section 32 of the BCEA.
35. We also found that the employees are paid minimum wages within the prescripts of the law
36. We did find however, that looking at the total remuneration packages of the employees, the affiliated companies can, and should, do much better for their employees than the current position.
37. We found that the companies currently do not offer any additional benefits for their employees, namely, pension fund contributions, medical aid contributions, bonuses (13th cheques or performance-based bonus).
We are nevertheless of the view that there are a number of practices that are of concern and that need to be addressed.
Mr Combrink told us that although it now appears that the Mission may have been defrauded, he still maintains that it is all part of God’s plan, and therefore Rev Stegen did not make a mistake.
35. The kind of “blind faith” in the judgement of a leader as described above is concerning, as there seems to be a refusal or inability to regard Rev Stegen as fallible. The authors of the Evangelical Alliance 2000 report recognized this weakness twenty years ago, and stated that: “It would seem that some of these (members) have given themselves over to an improper and exaggerated trust in their leaders.”
During our investigation we learned of the practice of learners having to have a slip of paper signed by a counsellor that would then be handed in to a teacher, and so learners were checked up on in this way.
Although Ms Newlands denied that confession had ever been compulsory, she acknowledged that some teachers may have used the practice referred to above to ensure compliance.
We find that the need to constantly confess one’s sins (usually to a counsellor) is very strongly emphasized, often leading to feelings of guilt and fear. We spoke to a number of former members who spoke of constant fear of judgment if there were any unconfessed sins.
There are very clear rules regarding dating. It is simply not allowed. No romantic relationships are allowed before marriage. We are told by the Mission that a man and a woman who are engaged to each other are allowed to communicate with each other, but they clearly they cannot do so before becoming engaged. One of the members, Mr Muller, described this as the KSB way of getting married. The Mission describes this as a “discipline” while former members describe it as a “rule”.
Manfred Stegen relayed to us that his brother, Rev Stegen, refused to marry his daughter many years ago, and he still does not understand why. This was the reason that he felt compelled to leave the Mission. There appears to have been a judgement of some sort on the relationship, but because of Rev Stegen’s age and failing health we were not able to discuss this with him and hear his side of the story
We find that there are former members who have left the Mission disillusioned and disappointed. It is also true however that many people have gone through the Mission and are very grateful for the influence that it had on their lives. We received over 350 emails expressing messages of support and appreciation for, and of, the Mission
Dr Fleischmann gave reasons a number of reasons why the members do not watch television:
67.1 .it is outdated in the modern digital era;
67.2. members not having time to watch;
67.3. it avoids the possibility of children having access to pornography.
235. We spoke to Mr Ngubane and Ms Ngcamu who are thedirectors of Ekhamanzi. They had no idea of what employees are paid or what was happening in the company. Ms Ngcamu stated that she is not interested in business and that she is only interested in matters relating to the Word of God.
236. Although our law does not require a director to have special business acumen, a director stands in a fiduciary relationship toa company of which she or he is a director. A director must exercise his / her powers and perform his /her functions with a degree of care skill and diligence. It was disconcerting to find out that she knows virtually nothing about the company that she is responsible for running, as required by the Companies Act, 2008.
2. As is indicated in paragraph 61of Section B, the former members of the Mission that we interviewed feel unfairly ostracized and hurt arising from their experiences with the Mission and its members. We do not suggest that the cause of this is all on the part of the Mission, but we have been mandated to make recommendations to the Mission.
3. Healing of relationships and reconciliation between those who are estranged are biblical imperatives. Our recommendation in this regard therefore is that the Mission explores ways in which it can work towards achieving this objective.
4. In terms of the constitution of the Mission, its affairs are governed by a Governing Body consisting of not less than 3trustees, but a quorum consists of 2trustees. Each trustee holds office indefinitely until he/she dies or resigns (although he/she can be removed by a resolution of the members). If a trustee resigns he/she is entitled to nominate his/her successor. Total control and power therefore of the Mission vests in potentially two or three individuals.
6. We are of the view that the leadership structure is a weakness and a liability. Mr Boshoff makes the point that where power is vested back in the group itself it can becomes an echo chamber that affirms or sanctions the desires of the group or a leader.
7. Our recommendation are that:
7.1. the current Governing Body of the Mission is dissolved;
7.2. the constitution is amended with the assistance of the Mission’s legal representatives;
7.3. the membership of the Governing Body is enlarged; and
7.4. a system is designed to enable the members of the Mission to determine who the members of the Governing Body should be; and
7.5. the members of the Governing Body are appointed / elected for a limited period of time.
8. The Mission leaders lack accountability. This issue is of course very closely tied to the issue of the authority structure. The challenge for the Mission is to find impartial Christian leaders outside of the Mission at KwaSizabantu itself to help find ways to deal with different issues in a more objective manner.
9. The Evangelical Alliance 2000 report highlighted, inter alia, that within the Mission was a lack of accountability, a lack of openness with the wider body of Christ and a lack of willingness to face and dialogue about perceived problems.
10. In its submissions to us, the Mission:
10.1. criticised the above-mentioned report;
10.2. stated that underlying the report is an assertion is that the authors thereof had a biblical right to investigate another church, particularly such a complex and diverse church as the Mission;
10.3. further stated that any investigation would require deep insight and knowledge of the concerned community, and that to want to do so was “nothing short of breath-taking arrogance and insensitivity, to what was a very complex and diverse community”;
10.4. objected to the fact that an outside church/grouping assumed for itself the right to intervene in its affairs;
10.5. said this would be like the Methodist Church, on seeing division within the Anglican Church, unilaterally taking upon itself the right to appoint a committee to investigate the dissension within the Anglican Church;
10.6. submitted that this obviously simply could not be countenanced by the Mission.
We do not think that this analogy is entirely appropriate. The authors of the report represented a wide spectrum of both the evangelical and ecumenical church communities, and we think it was unfortunate, and did not help the cause of the Mission that it closed ranks and became defensive.
12. Mr Boshoff refers to the Mission as having a history of a lack of objectivity and accountability.
13.3. this is the reason why the Mission should urgently (within the new ‘communication-age’), work towards and implement a very clearly defined liability structure, otherwise the cult cloud will continue to hang over the Mission;
13.4. the Mission urgently needs to explore the possibility of becoming part of a larger Christian ‘grouping’ (for the lack of abetter word) that can provide that oversight to help to help to address the challenges that it is facing.
14. Our recommendation in this regard is that at the very least, the Mission should, together with its branch / sister churches around the country and around the world, establish a council to which each mission / church is accountable. No individual church or mission should dominate the membership pof this council on its own.
16. The reason why people would still be willing to share their stories almost 30 years later is because those experiences must have caused them real and lasting pain. It is important for the Mission to realize this, acknowledge it and make amends with those people.
17. We received and read hundreds of submissions from people for whom the Mission had done a lot of good. We accept that the Mission has done, and continues to do, a lot of good for people; however, the shortcomings of the Mission, how ever long in the past they may be, need to be addressed for people to heal and move on.
18. The Mission must immediately make efforts to recover the money from Ndlela.
19. The Mission must report this matter to the police for an investigation to be conducted.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)