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“A Mission of Horror”

The South African online portal News24 starts an avalanche with reports about KwaSizabantu

The first sentences in the short film draw a nice picture. The first is spoken by a likeable young woman with a soft voice: “It was a very peaceful place”. Then a man says: “The people there were extremely open and friendly! Another one describes: “Our life was socially, religiously and economically influenced by the KwaSizabantu mission”.
But then the picture quickly collapses. “You had to confess your sins regularly, at least once a week,” recalls an elegant middle-aged woman. At the same moment when the voice of an elderly gentleman sounds, a writing on a black background appears on the screen: “A mission of peace”. When the man has finished his sentence – “The children have been terribly beaten! – the screen reads: “A mission of pain”. Further descriptions of the mission Kwasizabantu follow and the line “A mission of faith” becomes “A mission of fear”, “A mission of refuge” becomes “A mission of rape”. Finally, the trailer of the film by the South African media publisher News24 makes clear in the alternation of the last headline what an entire editorial team has found out after seven months of research: A “mission of hope” has become a “mission of horror”.
This trailer was the announcement of a documentary in film, podcasts and a series of articles from South Africa’s largest English-language news publication, News24, about the KwaSizabantu mission, which went online on Saturday, September 19. Since then, millions of South Africans have read, heard and seen reports on News24 about the embezzlement of millions of dollars, details of mass human rights violations, sexual abuse, rape, brutal treatment of children and wards, and helpless and bizarre-looking defense attempts by the mission leadership. South Africa now learns about low wages for workers in the Mission’s commercial enterprises, about humiliating treatment of women and men of all ages, about stubborn adherence to abstruse rules, and reads and hears and sees shocking testimonies of abuse in many forms and cannot believe it.
The seven-man editorial team around editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson and Tammy Petersen is bringing in the big guns. And lets many witnesses speak. Marietjie Bothma, for example, who is known throughout the country for her television roles and her much-praised performance during the inauguration of the then President Jacob Zuma, vividly describes her experiences with the KwaSizabantu mission and eight suicide attempts after the humiliations by the sect. Erika Bornman reports on sexual abuse by a former KSB employee from the upper echelons of management who is now in prison for murder. And of the fact that women who reported such experiences to the mission leadership were either called whores or were called the true culprits of the assaults.
News 24 reports meticulously and in detail about the embezzlement of 150 million rand, about investigations by the Hawks, a special unit of the country to uncover organized crime, corruption and white-collar crime, about investigations of the accusations by the regional government in KwaZulu Natal or the South African Human Rights Commission, which wants to get to the bottom of the matter. Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed police investigations. Labour courts now (finally) want to get to the bottom of the fact that the workers on the mission have been working for starvation wages for several years – collective wages have never played a role there.
Hard to believe for Europeans: In a video message to the readers of News24, editor-in-chief Basson advocated boycotting the products of the economic sectors of the KwaSizabantu mission. “You want to stop a sect? Then they won’t buy water from aQuelle,” he advised his millions of viewers in your video.
The editorial staff of News24 has set off a huge avalanche. Large commercial enterprises such as Spar and Woolworth have stopped working with all KSB companies, aQuelle products were taken off the shelves at Makro and Game, Pick’n Pay and Makro are demanding answers from KSB to the accusations. Many customers, reports News 24, have now even returned purchased aQuelle products to stores and had their money paid back.
News24 is now running hot – numerous new witnesses have come forward and want to tell us what happened to them in this supposedly Christian mission. In the 24 hours after the first publication on Saturday, the editorial staff received more than 50 reports from victims of the mission, who were affected by physical and sexual abuse – and rape. News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson gives interviews on TV stations in the country about the KwaSizabantu affair, public online News24 talks about the topic, a flood of new information about the “mission of horror” floods the country.
And how does KwaSizabantu react? The same as always! No matter what accusation is voiced, printed or broadcast, the sect’s slogan is always the same: “All lies, a smear campaign, all racist motives, because nobody allows blacks to succeed”. They spread this through their own radio station, Radio Khwezi, and broadcast it to the country. However: News24 also reports this. And also that the water factory aQuelle has announced that it will appoint an independent commission to clear up the accusations against the mission and its companies! Those familiar with KwaSizabantu know: the result is already certain, see above: “All lies, a smear campaign, all racist motives….”.
On the table of the News24 editorial office is also an almost historical document from the year 2000, and the News24 editorial office can see that the research of their journalists is one hundred percent identical to the content of the document from that time. For KwaSizabantu this is extremely unpleasant so many years later. After all, the document is the result of an investigation by the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, which at the time took days to listen to about 20 witnesses of abuse of all kinds on the mission. It is a kind of duplicity of events: Twenty years before or after, the key words are the same, the facts are the same, the horror of the crimes is the same, the grief, the trauma, the psychological consequences are the same. Only what was then the fraud in a diamond mine is replaced today by the criminal case with the missing 150 million rand. And how did KwaSizabantu react back then? Just like today, with the cynical mockery of its victims: “All a lie, a smear campaign…” But now, thanks to the News24 publications, something decisive has changed: now the pressure is so high that KwaSizabantu will not get out of the number. The number of witnesses who finally want to talk is too high. The evidence is too clear. The accusations, which have been raised again and again for years, are too terrible, too serious, too similar and too numerous to be wiped off the table now. There are too many dogs chasing the rabbit now for it to get away.

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