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Witnesses put Pressure on CRL Commission

The KwaSizabantu scandal has long been a scandal of the institution investigating it. Now the witnesses are threatening the CRL Commission with legal action because it is not fulfilling its mandate.

Witnesses who testified in public hearings against KwaSizabantu Mission have written to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, demanding that it release its report into allegations of human rights abuses by 31 January or face legal action.

In the lawyer’s letter, drafted by Eberhard Bertelsmann of the Echo Pro Bono Legal Aid Clinic on behalf of the witnesses and other concerned parties, it is demanded the Chapter 9 institution produce its findings by 31 January or it would launch a mandamus application.

This is an order directing a party to carry out an act as a judicial remedy.

There could be no excuse for the “exceptional delay” of the finalisation of the report and its recommendations from the investigations of KwaSizabantu, the letter charged.

“No explanation has been provided to those who entered the witness stand or to the public at large why your report has not seen the light of day,” the correspondence, written by one of the witnesses who had testified, read.

The letter was compiled after the CRL confirmed its findings would be released sometime in the first quarter of this year.

Public hearings were launched following a seven-month investigation by News24 which revealed allegations of sexual assault, physical and psychological abuse as well as financial crimes at one of the continent’s oldest missions.

“Is it really the case that after the efforts of so many witnesses who have come forward and provided you with evidence of the mission’s most serious misconduct, and after many months of investigation, you are unable to provide a report on your findings?” the letter read.

The writer referred to an email sent in February last year, in which commission spokesperson Mpiyakhe Mkholo committed to send an update to the witness on the progress in the matter within the course of that week.

None had been received.

The hearings had been launched in October 2020, just over a week after a News24 published Exodus: Uncovering a cult in KwaZulu-Natal.

The series focused on the rot at KwaSizabantu, which produces aQuelle water and supplies vegetables to some of the country’s biggest retailers.

Umpteen witnesses had told their stories of abuse at the mission, started in 1970.

They are still waiting on the findings, some almost three years after baring their souls to the panel.

“… On behalf of many people who have had profoundly traumatic experiences, I urge you to keep your word and not shy away from an official and public response, which you owe.”

Mkholo would only confirm the letter had been received and will be responded to.