I would herewith like to submit a formal complaint against the recent defamatory articles (Exodus) published on News24 against the KwaSizabantu Mission and aQuelle.
I herewith declare that I am not part of or related to the leadership of KwaSizabantu Mission and I am not financially dependent on the mission or any of its subsidiaries, neither do I live on the mission.
My family first visited the mission in 1979, a year before I was born. Even though my family lived far away from the mission I can remember as a child visiting the mission at least once a year. In 1995 I attended the school there for one year. In 2000 our family moved to Durban and we started visiting on a more regular basis. The past +/- five years my wife and I started attending most Sunday services and visited on a frequent basis. I have met most of the leaders and made many friends on the mission. I also met some of the current accusers and had conversations with many people visiting there and living on the mission. This includes some of the current accusers. This experience of visiting and meeting the people on the mission gives me the necessary insight and perspective to form a informed opinion about the current acquisitions and KwaSizabantu Mission.
From the word go I can confirm that my experience of KwaSizabantu Mission is nothing like what is portrayed in the Exodus articles. Over the years I found the mission to be abundantly generous and upright, never asking for money from anyone. Even when we stayed for a week or more, they never asked for money for the food, electricity, or accommodation that they supplied to all who visited and this was sometimes thousands at a time. I can clearly remember youth conferences when thousands of children received three good meals a day and warm accommodation completely free of charge. The laughter and joy of these children playing on the airstrip and sports field still rings clearly in my memory. Never did I feel forced to stay on the mission or was prevented from leaving when I decided to do so. I also never heard a report from all the hundreds of people that I have talked to over the years that indicated that they were kept on the mission against their will. I was also never pressurized to go and live on the mission and never did I speak to anyone that gave me the indication they felt pressurized to live there. According to my knowledge everyone that lives there, lives there free of charge and free water, electricity, accommodation, and food is provided. Over the years I never spoke to anyone that indicated that they were abused in any way by the leaders or that the mission tried to cover abuse up. If emotional and physical abuse was rampant on the mission, I cannot believe that I never picked this up during all the years visiting and connecting with many people on the mission.
I know the mission and the leaders as people who really care about people and generously support the community around them. The thousands of drug addicts who arrive at the mission with only rags on their body and rejected by family and community and then taken in to be cared for medically, physically and spiritually by the mission free of charge is only one example of many. I have met and talked to some of the young men that went through the program and they cannot thank the mission enough. Many of them go back to their homes and become successful men supporting their communities where thy once burdened them. Some of their testimonies are on the KwaSizabantu website or you can look them up and see for yourself.
It seems as if some of the accusers accuse their own parents of forcing them to stay with them on the mission when they were minors and labeled this as emotional abuse? If you stay with your parents and you are a minor then it is your parents who decide where it is best for you to stay and when you turn 18 you are free to go where you want. This is the same on the mission as anywhere else in SA. Many kids in SA are not happy with where their parents stay and leave their parents home as soon as they can. But if this happens on the mission, it is labeled as emotional abuse by the parents and the mission. Must the parents stay where the kids choose? The mission definitely does not force the parents to stay there. I do not say it is not possible that there have been parents that abused their children just like everywhere in the world and even in the very town you stay in, but it was definitely not condoned by the mission.
I am not denying that it is possible that some members living on the mission abused one another emotionally and or physically. If this happened, it was never condoned by the mission. On the contrary if you ever attended youth conferences or any other conference and or service on the mission this type of behavior was always and is still sharply rebuked and labeled as sin (listen to the sermons on the website). The notion portrayed in the article that this sort of behavior was accepted and covered up by the mission is a blatant lie. Anyone abused in this manner should report this at the closest police station and file criminal charges. To date I am not aware of anyone filing such criminal charges against the leaders or the mission. If someone on the mission abused someone else, the abused person should report this at the police (in fact if they reported it to the leadership they will help the person to report it if that is what they want to do) and the offender should be prosecuted and punished if found guilty. If the mission were found to try and cover it up, they would also be guilty. According to my knowledge this is exactly the attitude that the leadership and everyone I know on the mission have. The question is why did the accusers not take it to the police but rather to News24?
The notion that the mission is cult is farfetched and completely baseless. I have heard hundreds if not thousands of messages preached at the mission by various pastors from many different denominations and the message as preach by reverend Erlo Stegen is in line with most mainline church denominations in the world. If the mission is a cult then most of the churches in South Africa today will also qualify as a cult. The missions core believes is directly derived from the Bible and similar if not the same as conservative Christian church denominations. Go read it on their webpage and listen to the sermons posted on the webpage.
The articles refer to a seven-month investigation but how can it be that such extensive investigation never interviewed the accused and the leaders on the mission to consider their perspective? How is it possible that in such an investigation people like me with a positive experience of the mission were never interviewed to try and get perspective and test if the allegations are trustworthy? How can such an investigation not also consider how few negative reports there have been over a 50-year period and compare it with other similar organizations for example, The Catholic Church or the Protestant church or the NG church? We all know that in all of these organizations there have been incidents were members abused each other and committed crimes against each other and sometimes even priests were involved. But we do not see that you write articles about these organizations classifying them as cult and accusing the organization of condoning this behavior. This is clearly a one-sided investigation and I will not be surprised if it was paid by a disgruntled member that did not get the position or recognition, he/she felt they deserved. This sort of biased investigation is not surprising but that News24 can take it and make use of it in a mosaic of misinformation to create a fake news article is!
The articles further condemn the mission to be guilty before any court hearing and even go as far as deciding to punish them by boycotting their products before they have been found guilty or before considering the impact it will have. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? It is shocking that News24 can call for a boycott with only the one-sided information in the articles.
Has the editor considered the thousands of disadvantaged people in poor communities that may lose the support from the mission and the hundreds that may lose their jobs at aQuelle and the other operations as a result of the boycott that your publication is calling for. Have you calculated the value of contributions the organizations make to the poor and needy, not to even mention the orphans, before you called for a boycott or have you been to irresponsible and eager to get your sensational article out? Did you consider these people or was the possible advertising revenue from this sensationalized article more important? Have you forgotten who the only water compony was that sent more water without a price increase to the Western Cape in the drought even when it cost them more to send it there? Or will News24 fill the gap and help these poor communities with your added revenue?
The articles are completely one sided and defamatory and I urge News24 to remove them until the independent investigation is completed or at minimum edit the articles with clear disclaimers to warn the readers that it is biased and incomplete and stop the call for a boycott until guilt is proven. How will News24 restore the damage done if the independent investigators clear KwaSizabantu name?