I Find it Difficult to Remain Silent

It is with alternating moments of hilarity and horror that I have read the absurd lies and malicious slander published in the News 24 coverage of KwaSizabantu in the last few weeks. 

News24 claims to have done a seven month investigation before publishing this barrage of slander, when in fact they merely interviewed a handful of disgruntled individuals, who basically shared their own reconstructed memories of events that happened 20 years ago or more. 

I do give News 24 and Adriaan Basson credit for the eloquence and professionalism with which they have published this fiction. The eerie music and dark and spooky reenactments in the Exodus video convincingly portray an evil and cultic place. They have successfully used ancient footage of the mission to portray it as a backward and seedy place. The problem is that the atmosphere portrayed on their “documentary”, podcasts and articles couldn’t be further removed from the kind of atmosphere which exists at the mission, on which I have lived for 29 years, which would be my entire life. 

I cannot help but ask myself what motive Mr Basson and co have for so maliciously slandering the good work done by KwaSizabantu as well as mocking the founder of the mission, Rev E Steven (here I refer both to the Exodus video and specifically podcast number 2). I also do not understand why News24 is so committed to only publishing one side of this story. Everything the mission now says or does gets coloured with words that have negative connotations (if it’s an article) or sinister music (if it’s a video). 

Take for example, the recent accusation that the mission “rolled out the red carpet” for government officials who came to inspect various projects at the mission on Thursday. As a young person who grew up at the mission, I can testify that is how the mission has always treated visitors. The mission always goes the second mile when it comes to hosting people, and Thursday’s visit was no different. But now, by implication, News24 condemns and judges us for treating people in a civil and respectful manner. I ask you! What else were we supposed to do? Ignore our visitors? 

Another strange accusation levelled at the mission by News24, is that of owning “multibillion rand” enterprises, as if that is a crime! The vision of Rev Stegen was that the mission should never beg for money, but be self-sufficient. No collections are held at our services and we are never asked to donate money to the church – rather, we are always on the receiving end: we stay on the premises at no cost, we don’t even pay for water and electricity. Whenever possible food, water and seedlings are distributed to communities (this includes those not affiliated with the mission). In poor communities who cannot afford to pay for funerals, the mission assists: making coffins, providing transport to and from the mortuary, providing the lunch for the hundreds of friends and family attending – all at no cost. And this to families with no affiliations with the church. Their claim to assistance from the mission: they are simply human beings in need of help. That is where the “millions” generated by KwaSizabantu mission go. 

The “millions” are used to transport, house and provide food bi-annually for four to five thousand youth who attend a conference free of charge. Those who indicate they would like to attend are fetched from across the province of KwaZulu Natal in a series of bus trips that often take 3 days to complete. The mission carries the transport costs. The mission provides them with 3 free meals a day for the duration of the conference, which usually lasts a week. A sports day is also hosted for the youth. Once again, the mission bears all the costs related to that. 

The “millions” are also used to house and provide meals for hundreds of pastors from all denominations to attend a minister’s conference every second year. During this conference, families on the mission voluntarily move out of their rooms so as to accommodate the pastors in their homes. I well remember the excitement, even as a child, of getting to know all these new people and enjoying meals and fellowship together with them in our home. 

The “millions” are also used to give drug addicts new hope and life in Christ. Young people, up to 30 a day, arrive at the mission desperate to be free from drugs. From the time of their arrival until they leave, they are treated love and dignity – regardless of how many times they have been in prison, or how many people they have murdered, our how much they have stolen. In most of these cases, their families and communities have had enough of them and don’t want anything to do with them. Yet at the mission they find acceptance and help. I’ve witnessed alcohol, dagga and heroin addicts transformed by the power of the gospel into respectable people who are reconciled with their families and become valued members of their communities. These young people receive free meals, free accommodation, counsellors give them an ear for hours at a time all at no cost. 

As to the accusations of the Mission being a cult!  The teaching at KwaSizabantu is Biblical, and anyone in doubt of this can easily verify it by listening to our livestreamed services which are archived and easily accessible on the mission’s website, or by reading the transcripts, also available on the website. Adriaan Basson either does not understand what the word “cult” means, or he has no idea what the mission really is like (I think the latter more probable). 

KwaSizabantu mission has, through God’s help, been instrumental in healing many broken lives and bringing restoration and reconciliation with God and man. If everyone who received help through the mission, or the founder, Rev Stegen, would get an opportunity to speak about this, it would take hours, days, to get through them all. 

For these reasons, I say again, I find it difficult to believe that News 24 carried out a seven month investigation. The truth is so far removed from what they have “exposed” that the KwaSizabantu mission described in their publications and the KwaSizabantu in real life are simply irreconcilable. Mr Basson and his team have no idea what kind of place it is they are trying so hard to destroy. I pray, for South Africa’s sake, they do not succeed. 

And no, no-one asked or coerced me into writing this letter. I just found it difficult to remain silent in the face of the human rights abuses which I, my family, my church, and my community are now suffering at the hands of Adriaan Basson and News24. 

Yours faithfully
Miriam Pretorius