The accusations are similar in every detail – but KwaSizabantu denies everything
It will not have been easy for the former leaders of the KwaSizabantu Switzerland mission to commission an investigation into sectarian practices in their ranks, the outcome of which they could have guessed. The result is well known, the disaster described in detail. They had to take a public beating, endure harsh comments, face consequences – albeit very modest ones – and suffer severe reputational damage. Now, however, the disastrous findings from the former Swiss branch of Mission KwaSizabantu could have consequences elsewhere: in South Africa.
There, the chairman of the CRL Commission, Professor David Mosoma, has just declared that he will have Lidia Dube questioned in July as the last person in the investigation into the KwaSizabantu mission – which, however, was once again an empty promise on the part of the Commission. But at least Mosoma and his commission members, if they ever want to take up the work again, have got tail wind from Switzerland.
For when he reads the final declaration on KwaSizabantu Switzerland, he will notice: The allegations in South Africa resemble the now confirmed findings from the inner workings of KSB Switzerland down to the last detail. And these findings now give considerably more weight to the testimonies of the witnesses against Mission KwaSizabantu before the Commission. And they weaken the position of the mission headquarters. Because it is clear: Wherever KwaSizabantu was written on it, there was always KwaSizabantu in it: theology of fear, abuse in any form, oppression of women, etc. And wherever they were criticized for it, wherever facts about the conditions in KwaSizabantu were reported in newspapers or on the Internet, the KSB protagonists always claimed it was a lie. Now everyone knows: It was the truth – and they lied.
While the Swiss public approvingly acknowledges the efforts of the former KSB faithful to come to terms with their history, the mission headquarters in KwaZulu Natal continues to block everything. With all tricks, with excuses and stalling tactics, the mission defends itself against everything it is accused of. Erlo Stegen and his supporters have always dismissed all accusations as lies or a campaign against them. Even the investigation of the Evangelical Alliance in South Africa countered KSB with the accusation that their opponents want to subjugate the mission. What was written on the Internet and in media was considered devil’s work for them. To take the wind out of the critics’ sails, KwaSizabantu even set up its own so-called “independent commission” – but the shot backfired. The commission, which consisted of two lawyers, wrote a large number of criticisms of the mission in its final paper and also exposed one or two lies told by KSB management. Ruth Combrinck, daughter of Erlo Stegen, repeatedly cut a deplorable figure, because in interviews with journalists she either did not respond to their questions or only pulled off her own stereotypical exoneration program. But you don’t make friends with that kind of thing, especially not with commissions that are supposed to find out the facts. The fact that the mission had already taken on the chairman of the commission at the beginning of the hearings in order to demonstrate its strength was probably not well received either.
France has been the most consistent in cutting the cord with KwaSizabantu. Mainly because many community members dared to speak out against the practices of the leaders and against the KSB way. One of the former leaders publicly confessed his errors and their consequences, and three leaders left KSB and its French successor congregations. In 2019, there were 7 congregations in France. One small one has dissolved. Two other small ones are now fully independent but not very active. Three are still linked to Lindach in Germany and Kaltbrunn in Switzerland but severely weakened in personnel . Finally, one is reforming and has already joined a good and healthy denomination.
In Switzerland, it took a while before the investigation of practices in the congregation and school began – nevertheless, it was the most extensive, detailed and professional reappraisal of the unfortunate past to date, with a great response in the media. In Germany, on the other hand, nothing at all has been worked up; the former leader of KSB Germany is still congregational leader of the group now operating under the name of Freie Evangelische Gemeinschaft Lindach; neither in the former branches of Druhwald nor in Bensheim nor in the congregation Haus Waldfrieden in Wiehl has there been any official start to question the theology of fear that was proclaimed for years. A mystery is how now the relations of the German ex-congregations with the former KSB congregation on the Oberkirch farm are developing. Here a reappraisal of the evil past – and there an embarrassed silence in the forest? Whether they already know it is not quite clear: namely that the municipality Hof Oberkirch cannot afford a continuation of the contacts between Lindach, Bensheim etc. and Kaltbrunn at present. It is namely under strict observation, by the media and possibly even by some of its own members, who are waiting in vain for something to finally happen in Germany and the KSB remnants in France in the matter of repentance. As long as this is not the case, any contact of the EGHO with them can destroy the credibility of their own regrets about the scandalous past again.
The center of the questionable revival movement in KwaZulu Natal wants absolutely nothing to do with coming to terms with the past. For despite the fierce accusations, despite an enormous number of testimonies about spiritual, physical and sexual abuse – the mission leadership stubbornly sticks to its line. The fact that the mission has always vigorously denied every accusation or has taken refuge in excuses has been proven many times. Through the results of the investigation in Switzerland, these evidences now also gain considerable weight, because the credibility of the excuses has sunk to zero through them. The schematic rejection of any criticism by Erlo Stegen’s mission in the past and present seems in view of the now proved abuse reproaches in Switzerland …. we leave the evaluation to the readers. We have compiled below some text excerpts from the last 25 years in which the mission’s defensive behavior becomes clear. They are excerpts published on ksb-alert from reports in newspapers and magazines as well as articles on this website.
To make clear once again what the European ex-KSBers did not want to believe in all these years but now have to recognize and what the KSB mission in South Africa flatly denies, here once again the summarizing evaluation of the law firm Capt Zollinger about the practices in KwaSizabantu. Everything that the psychologists found out on the basis of testimonies in Switzerland completely coincides with the accusations against the mission in South Africa.
The report of the psychological community of practice impressively shows that the ideological foundation of Mission Kwasizabantu, with which EGHO and CSL were closely connected from its foundation until the separation that took place in the summer of 2019, was of essential importance. The doctrine advocated by Mission Kwasizabantu led to borderline violations and, in some cases, serious abuses in religious, psychological, physical and sexual terms in the daily life of the school and the community, especially in the period up to 2002. In view of the numerous and, in the main features, largely concurring statements of the former students and community members affected by this, this cannot be doubted. Again and again there was talk of a theology of fear, of a lack of protection of personality, of exposures, of induced feelings of guilt, of a practice of interrogation and pressure to confess, a culture of denunciation, manipulation and threats, corporal punishment rituals, oppression of women, diabolization of normal intersexual contacts, over-sexualization and taboo, disregard for intimacy, exaggerated interest in sexual issues in pastoral care, sexual harassment and rape by a teacher, and even serious sexual abuse by a former president at the time. a former president of the former missionary organizations Kwasizabantu Switzerland and Domino Servite and several pastors.
How the KSB groups denied all accusations in the past, in addition a few texts from ksb-alert to this topic. For faster reading, we have put the essential parts of the sections in bold.
Erlo Stegen did not respond to our arguments at all. He tried to break off the conversation after seven minutes by explaining that we had not called him in the morning. We could not give in to him because three people on our side had listened to the call.
No answer to the question came. Hans Koller, practiced in KSB rhetoric, said, “We do it this way: we educate the children as the parents tell us.” And, “We do it this way: punishment is the parents’ business.” … Koller didn’t need to say anything – it was as if a wall of defenders was building up, making themselves advocates of Sizabantu’s ideology of beating. … After a while the question was put again to the Swiss KSB leader Hans Koller: “Hans, did you beat children in Kaltbrunn?”, whereupon Peter T., KSB leader in Druwald, shouted into the room: “Hans, don’t say it!”.
“Erlo Stegen made statements on several occasions that had to be understood as threats of litigation. Every effort is made by Sizabantu to keep up appearances, and anyone who reveals too much of what is going on behind the scenes can expect to be sued.
February 2000: In 1977, YWAM’s international leadership was appointed as neutral and unbiased mediators in a desperate attempt to bring correction and reconciliation to the mission. Nothing changed, and in fact the negative tendencies became harsher and more extreme. At the same time, the mission leadership managed to develop a highly insulating veil of secrecy to escape questioning and criticism from the Christian community with which it wanted to have good relations. Since then, there have been many individual and small group efforts inside and outside KSB aimed at reforming the unbiblical policies that typically stem from KSB leadership’s secretive and clandestine activities and excessive authoritarianism.
March 2000 IDEA writes:
The accusations in Germany are similar to those in South Africa down to the last detail.
Friedel Stegen and press spokesman Kjell Olsen deny all accusations to idea. In a conversation lasting more than an hour in Lindach near Schwäbisch Gmünd, which was recorded, Olsen said, among other things: “We always encourage families to stay together.” Asked if women were forbidden to wear pants, Stegen replied, “We’ve never spoken against pants.” … The fact that many responsible people have left the ministry is a mystery to leaders, he said, since they check daily to see if they are tolerating unbiblical things in the community. Stegen: “This is a campaign against us.”
April 2000 IDEA writes:
“Kwa Sizabantu is in danger of developing sectarian traits,” the statement said. This includes, it said, the fact that the mission leadership has been unwilling to discuss the complaints with representatives of churches and evangelical ministries, despite repeated requests. Individuals had been invited to visit the mission, but Stegen and his staff had refused to discuss the critical points…..In Germany, about 130 … turned their backs on the work a year ago. So far, the management has dismissed all critical points as part of a “campaign.”
June 2002 IDEA writes:
But Stegen and Olsen also consider the criticism of former members to be unjustified. They had heard about many things for the first time through press releases. The critics had not contacted the management beforehand.
June 2000 IDEA writes:
As the acting director for the south, Georg Grau (Schwäbisch Gmünd), told Idea on request, he was not aware of the accusations against the plant in South Africa. He has known Kwa Sizabantu for 22 years and suspects that the accusations against the institution are being made “out of envy and resentment” by former members…. Grau called accusations that critics of the mission’s leadership are also ostracized in German Kwa Sizabantu circles and in some cases isolated from their families a “malicious insinuation.” Everyone needs correction; critical comments are gratefully accepted by Erlo Stegen and his co-workers.
June 2000 Ev. Alliance South Africa:
“KSB management, however, refused to meet with this panel of Christian leaders, insinuating that the panel was being used by ‘dissidents and enemies of the KSB mission.‘ …The panel responded to KSB to justify the importance of meeting as a group of Christian leaders with KSB officials and again requested a meeting at KSB to discuss matters. However, KSB again declined……two more dates were offered by the committee and again asked for a meeting. But again, KSB management declined. …..
August 2000: Mission Kwasizabantu:
“Critics want to subdue us”.
July 2000: IDEA writes:
The South African missionary organization Kwa Sizabantu (KSB, Kranskop) has denied all accusations made by evangelicals in recent months……
A fictitious kidnapping with hired gangsters, a serious bodily injury – Erlo Stegen and the management of the Kwasizabantu mission handled it as if it were a trivial offense. Deflecting, deceiving, covering up – Erlo Stegen remained true to his line.
May 2001 Natal Witness:
Dieter Stegen, the nephew of the head of Mission Kwasizabantu Reverend Erlo Stegen, has admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock. This is the content of an affidavit filed by the child’s aunt in Pietermaritzburg court on Wednesday. …. Erlo Stegen, Dieter Stegen and Mission Kwasizabantu are seeking a court interdict to stop Erlo’s brother Bodo and Kwasizabantu breakaway pastors Barney Mabaso and Phangumusa Mntungwa from claiming that Dieter Stegen is the child’s father. ….Then, on June 1, KSB’s lawyers announced the mission’s decision to withdraw the application and settle the matter out of court. Meanwhile, Erlo Stegen and Mission Kwasizabantu changed their minds and agreed to pay the court costs of the five defendants. The case is thus closed.
“It all reminds me of communism. After all, I grew up under communism. The violence, the methods, the difference between leaders and normal people, the brainwashing, the power and many features of the communist dictatorship I found again in KSB. KSB does not tolerate criticism. KSB is “flawless.” And should anyone ever criticize, he is muzzled.”
June 2006 Tagesanzeiger Switzerland:
The KSB management contradicts in all points.
July 2006 St. Galler Tagblatt:
Asked about the accusations, Jürg Schuppli, principal of Domino Servite, did not go into the individual points….
October 2006 St. Galler Tagblatt:
Jürg Schuppli, principal of Domino Servite, had denied the accusations in June, but had not addressed the individual points of criticism.
The speeches of the Dubes are a never-ending agitation against others, a frighteningly fact-poor, spiritually seen repulsive intellectual declaration of bankruptcy. They are an attempt to find others guilty of charges against the mission and to whitewash themselves…. Thofozi, when speaking about the 2000 debacle, justified herself as innocent in the whole abduction matter. She apologized in 2002, but only to those who saw her in light of the fact that she was a liar and a fraud. She never acknowledged any wrongdoing on her part then, nor does she now. They, Thofozi and Jabulane, presented themselves as victims in everything that was going on.
October 2019 Idea:
An unnamed statement from the mission agency in South Africa said that despite all the “negative and damaging publications in the media,” it remains committed to “doing good as the Lord guides us.” It said it did not want to get involved in individual disputes: “We are surprised that such serious allegations are being made and that those who are doing this are taking it to the public instead of referring matters to the police so that the alleged perpetrators can be brought to justice.” The matter had been turned over to attorneys
“In Barney’s case: he had warned Uncle Erlo after the mock seduction staged by Lydia Dube, telling him that Lydia was dangerous to the revival and asking that she be sent away. Uncle Erlo was apparently not very impressed with this and you know what developed. Lies and more lies were spread about him – and we believed them – we heard nothing else. All staged at Lydia. That’s what happened to anyone who brought up anything that wasn’t true and biblical.”
September 2020 Statement KSB:
„The vicious attack on KwaSizabantu Mission is shocking. This media explosion aims to spread rumours and destroy the humanitarian and spiritual work of this Christian Mission. Contrary to their claims, we are not a cult, we are not a sect and we are not exclusive. KwaSizabantu Mission is a middle of the road evangelical organisation with complete openness to other churches and organisations. …. Those driving the current smear campaign have resorted to the low tactics of libel and defamation. …. People making such horrendous allegations against the Mission are free to follow the normal lawful procedures. Those who have been ‘allegedly’ violated against, should seek justice through the judicial system. The fact that these allegations have never been taken to the authorities begs the question; why not? Why have the so-called victims not done what the law requires? Why blame the Mission?“
September 2020 News24 writes:
“According to Combrink, the allegations were taken up at that time and those who wanted reconciliation had met with the mission leadership.” Combrink told News24, “Most importantly, those who had grievances and were genuinely seeking reconciliation met with the KwaSizabantu Mission leadership back in 2000. At the meeting, these parties were able to discuss their grievances. Restitution and reparations were made that same day, and apologies were offered and accepted by those present.” All wrong: there was no one with whom the leadership of Mission KwaSizabantu met about the allegations at that time – on the contrary, KSB denied all the results of the interviews of its victims before the Evangelical Alliance Commission. …Then yesterday came the confirmation that Ruth Combrink’s statements are indeed not true. The general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, Moss Ntlha, confirmed to the Natal Wittness that there was no willingness on the part of KwaSizabantu to clarify the allegations of violence and abuse in any way.
What Ruth Combrink says about the new allegations, however, is downright confusing in the maelstrom of current events. Because while all the other spokespeople for the mission are rejecting the abuse allegations in the strongest possible terms, dismissing them as smear campaigns and lies, Combrink is suddenly talking about “compassion.” Compassion with whom?
Presenter Ayanda Nyathi, in another program, calls what is happening to KSB the “biggest religious scandal in the history of South Africa.” When he interviews Ruth Combrink on his program “AM News”, he only gets to hear the old, recurring statements from KSB – how nice everything is at KSB, how much good they do, etc. Every now and then he has to intervene, like this: “You didn’t answer my question.” It doesn’t help much, Caombrink reels off her program. She explains that they are “shocked by the allegations” – and to find out the truth they have formed an independent commission to clarify the allegations. However, they also welcomed the fact that the CRL Commission is investigating the allegations – whose hearing KwaSizabantu had walked out of shortly before in protest.
KSB’s own “independent commission” lists a series of lies and errors:
(IDEA is a free church magazine in Germany)