Sun, 29 Nov 2020

A woman testifying before the CRL Rights Commission has detailed allegations of mental, physical and sexual abuse at the KwaSizabantu Mission in KwaZulu-Natal, where she was expelled for watching a movie on DVD.

While her life began with strife and abuse, she found her way to the KwaSizabantu Mission in search of love, direction and guidance, but found the same abuse and pain she had previously suffered.

She cannot be identified to protect a rape victim mentioned in her testimony on Tuesday, but the woman has described horrific accounts of sexual abuse, lies and God complexes at the now infamous mission.

Her story began in 1990 when she fell on hard times and went to the mission, a place she felt could provide refuge and healing.

"My life before KwaSizabantu was anything but a good time. I come from a life of abuse. I was abused as a child and I was abused as an adult, it was very hard. I didn't know love or experience love or know what was happening to me at the mission - I just knew these people cared, so I gave it my all. Until one day, I made one mistake."

But that was all she arrived with at the mission.

"I told myself that I was going to the mission and I must look my best. I took my make-up to the counsellor very eagerly, not knowing what he would do. He said I could leave it there. I never thought about it again until we had a fire service."

She recalled in the early 2000s needing a foot operation in Pretoria. Prior to the operation, she house-sat for friends.

"They were going overseas and needed someone in their house. On their DVD shelf, they have a DVD called Pearl Harbour. This DVD was on the shelf and opened, so it had been watched already. They had their niece living with them. She said let's watch a DVD. I took the one on the shelf and watched it."

She then went to Pretoria for the operation and didn't think of confessing it "because I didn't think there was anything wrong with watching the DVD".

"There was nothing I thought was a sin. If you sin at the mission, if you said something about someone, you had to run to your counsellor and confess. If you didn't, they will call you and say someone else will confess your sin on your behalf."

Her fears of confession were not unfounded.

She said she was called into an office with the highest-ranking leaders of KwaSizabantu, including Erlo Stegen and Michael Ngubane, among others.

Here, they asked her if she had a confession, referring to the DVD she had watched.

"I had completely forgotten about that. I still wanted to confess it."

But she said it was too late, she was already ousted by Stegen.

"He said for 12 years you have been playing with God and your religion meant nothing. He said go away from me, I never want to see you ever again. It felt like God was chasing me away. Even today, I am not sure I will make it back to God, the fear makes me think God will never accept me again, and God will not accept me into heaven."

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She said that, in the expulsion process, you are immediately isolated.

"When you are being chased away, no one will come talk to you. You have to leave immediately."

She claimed to have also been sexually abused "by one of the main leaders of the mission".

"Many things happened to me, I was sexually abused by Mr Kunene, I was sexually abused by him and other people at the mission.

"It brings about fear and shame in me. It changed me. When I got to the mission, I thought it was such a wonderful place. I was wrong. As long as you can do something for them and contribute to their work and add value to what they want, you are good."

She also claimed to have knowledge of a murder at the mission.

"In 2001, a young woman was murdered and raped at the mission. The sexual abuse has been going on for a long time, this is since 1990."

She also testified that she tried to alert leaders of the church when another member tried to sleep with her.

"They told me not to make a big thing out of it. They said that member was probably sleepwalking. I know she wanted to sleep with me, she got into my bed."

Child abuse was also allegedly witnessed.

"I saw children beaten, white children and black children. I saw a parent beat a child because they were a little bit cheeky. I was once told that in the mission we beat the child until the child is quiet, then we beat the child because they are naughty."

Public figures have been hoodwinked

She said public figures influenced by the mission had not seen the entire picture.

"The king [Goodwill Zwelithini] and KwaSizabantu are close. We literally bowed before the king. If [Prince Mangosuthu] Buthelezi comes, he gets treated to the best. No one sees what happens behind closed doors. It is unreal."

She said they also poorly remunerated people who worked at the compound.

"A teacher at the school at the moment earns R4 000 per month. They [leadership] become wealthy on the blood of normal people that work hard for them. The truth behind the matter is KwaSizabantu abuses the trust people put in you."

Source: News24

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