Ouestion: Why have Erlo Stegen and Kwasizabantu Withdrawn their Court Application?

On Wednesday, May 30, 2001, the Supreme Court of South Africa, KwaZulu Natal adjourned its hearing of the matter between KSB and Barney Mabaso and others until September 5th because of Kwasizabantu’s request to withdraw their application but without costs. Mission Kwasizabantu’s advocate announced that the Mission would like to withdraw the application against the 5 respondents, citing that they had achieved their objectives. Two days later, on June 1, 2001, KSB’s advocates announced their client’s have reversed their decision and will withdraw and pay the legal fees of the respondents.

This announcement comes as good news to the 5 respondents and their friends and families. Yet questions still remain about serious issues raised by Kwasizabantu in its court application. Erlo Stegen and Mission Kwasizabantu have not identified which of their objectives have been achieved and why they have now withdrawn their application.

The responding affidavits of Barney Mabaso, Phangumusa Mabaso, and the others- contest the truth of Mission Kwasizabantu’s accusations against them and bring counter-evidence to support this testimony. They have denied having spoken the specific malicious, defamations against Erlo Stegen or his relative, who Erlo claims has been defamed. The 5 respondents have likewise disputed the truthfulness and accuracy of the sworn testimony of Mission Kwasizabantu leader Erlo Stegen, and those, including Friedel Stegen, Heino Stegen, Fano Sibisi, Margrit Olsen, and Ernie Engelbrecht and others who filed affidavits in support of Mission Kwasizabantu and Erlo Stegen in KSB’s application.

One of KSB’s objectives, according to their court application, was to prove the five respondents guilty of defamation, to seek an interdict to silence further defamation, and, to seek financial remuneration for alleged damages caused to the Mission by loss of funding which Erlo claims resulted from the spread of alleged untrue, malicious rumours that his relative has illegitimate child. Erlo Stegen claimed that Barney Mabaso and the other men had spread these false rumours overseas and in South Africa. The objective to prove the 5 men guilty has clearly not been achieved, as the five respondents have presented testimony and other supporting affidavits disputing the facts in Kwasizabantu’s application and rejecting KSB’s claims. KSB’s withdrawal from the case now leaves all accusations unverified. KSB likewise has also not received the satisfaction or assurance of the remotest apology or acknowledgement of guilt on the part of Barney Mabaso, Mphangeni Mabaso, Mattias Lubke, Bodo Stegen or Trevor Dahl.

The question thus remains: what objective has Mission Kwasizabantu achieved that it now wishes to withdraw its application? One possible answer lies in the fact that while the five respondents have denied having defamed Erlo Stegen or his relative, they have further stated to the court that they have no intention of defaming them presently or in the future. With such clear affirmations, the respondents have demonstrated that a court ordered interdict against them might not be clearly necessary. This might explain to some extent why KSB now states it has achieved its objective and does not see it necessary to continue with their application against the 5 ex-KSB members.

Yet, there might be other reasons motivating KSB and Erlo Stegen to withdraw the court application. For example, one of Erlo Stegen’s paramount claims is that Barney Mabaso and Barney’s brother Phangumusa departed from KSB with their congregations because they wrongly believed Erlo Stegen’s relative had fathered an illegitimate child.

Barney Mabaso and Phangumusa, in their responses, offer overwhelming evidence in contradiction to Erlo Stegen’s claims, explaining that their decision to leave had nothing to do with Erlo Stegen’s relative, but was because of Erlo Stegen’s alleged mishandling and cover-up of Lydia Dube’s sham kidnapping affair.