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Nobody can catch us, nobody gets us….

A Christian mission and crime – according to popular opinion, this does not go together. However, the example of the KwaSizabantu mission shows that it does go together. Shaken up by the abuse scandals of the Catholic Church, however, society internationally has made the experience in recent years of having to take a closer look at all religious communities, churches or missions. For the unimaginable, criminality, violence and abuse, become reality again and again, even in Christian circles. And the more exclusive the group, the greater the danger of criminal excesses by its protagonists. On the KSB mission, in addition to crooked deals with a diamond mine and ominous money transports worth tens of millions, according to witnesses, there were rows of rapes, sexual assaults, obstruction of justice and fraud. How could a milieu that was almost criminal in parts develop with the public claim of a sinless way of life in the mission?

 Time and again, when young women or girls came to the head of the KwaSizabantu mission, Erlo Stegen, and told him about sexual harassment or even rape by mission staff, Stegen seemed to almost faint with horror. The missionary, who was held in such high esteem everywhere, always promised the victims that he would take decisive action against the incidents, but then he coldly and deliberately let them go nowhere. The same thing always happened – nothing! A young woman affected at the time experienced it like this: “Erlo promised to remove the man from leadership positions in the mission and to prevent him from being alone with young women in the future. Two weeks later I opened the newspaper “The Natal Witness” and there was a big photo of my rapist smiling – the article was about him and Christians for Truth. I called Erlo and asked him how this was possible after he had promised me so much. His words to me: “Tell me again what we talked about? I don’t remember.”

Deceive and cover up – this DNA of the mission became apparent again and again when the image of the revival church with the super Christians in the hill country of Natal seemed to be shaken by violations of justice, law and dignity. The glamour of the mission and its leader was more important than the victims of the crimes and their punishment. “One day”, Erlo Stegen had always shouted in sermons to his listeners, “the sparrows will whistle your sins from the rooftops if you want to cover them”. He probably did not consider that this also applies to crimes committed on his mission. What the news platform News 24 has reported so far about the practices of the mission, what the CRL Commission in South Africa heard, what victims, witnesses, newspapers and other media reported and what is available in affidavits, clearly shows that the unimaginable was commonplace on the mission.

The most cited example of lawbreaking and criminal energy on Sizabantu involves the current number one missionary, Lidia Dube, herself. Her spectacular abduction in the late 1990s was a fake – and turned out to be a self-orchestrated kidnapping in which one of her bodyguards suffered injuries so severe that she was crippled. For years, the mission was fiddled with until finally the truth could no longer be hidden, however: no criminal charges were ever brought against Lidia Dube, who would probably have ended up in prison for a long time. For her mother, Mama Dube, the affair was so unpleasant that she publicly apologised for it at the mission branch in Tugela Ferry, which her daughter was accused of. The entire community there had separated from KwaSizabantu after the incidents mainly because KSB leader Erlo Stegen tried to cover up the whole affair for years. ( and )

Her long-time assistant Mamezane Mapumulo had as much criminal energy as her boss Lidia Dube. Although she was already facing legal proceedings for presumption of authority and fraud, which then brought her five years in prison, she attempted to use her alleged knowledge of the still unsolved ominous money transports of 150 million rand (approx. 9 million euros) on the mission itself to get her hands on the big money. She lured James Stegen, a nephew of Erlo Stegen who is no longer part of the mission, into an ambush not far from Richards Bay. Using weapons, several men forced him to transfer several hundred thousand rand to Mamazane’s account via mobile phone in her presence. Mamezane then fled with the men and James’ mobile phone, but he was just able to stop the transfer at a bank in Richards Bay. She was convicted in May 2022. For robbery and kidnapping. 12 years imprisonment!

A former star coworker of the Mission, Muzi Kunene, has to stay in prison for a really long time. For murder. And much more. He had already sexually harassed young women as an employee of the mission, even raped several of them. But everything was covered up. Although Erlo Stegen was aware of the crimes, he kept him in his functions. Muzi Kunene, then a brother-in-law of Lidia Dube, remained unmolested, no criminal charges were filed. Later, after Kunene left his wife and the mission, he temporarily worked for Jacob Zuma, later South Africa’s scandalous president and a benevolent friend of Erlo Stegen, who allegedly deprived the state of billions and kept delaying the trial against himself. For Muzi Kunene, however, it then came to a head. The Natal Wittnes wrote about the former “missionary” of the Kwasizabantu mission on 17 October 2013:

“Pretoria magistrate David Makhoba sent Muziwendoda (Muzi) Kunene to prison for 14 years. He was found guilty of obstructing justice, making a false affidavit and attempting to murder his son Mosebenziwenkosi, who was to testify against his father in another murder case. His prison sentence is in addition to a life sentence he is currently serving. Kunene had been sentenced to life imprisonment in May 2009 after being found guilty of murder, kidnapping, robbery and fraud in the Bloemfontein High Court. He had abducted and murdered real estate agent Lynne Hume in October 2007.”

The inclined reader in Kwasizabantu circles will object that murder, robbery, fraud and kidnapping are criminal cases outside and have nothing to do with the mission. This is not entirely wrong, but the question is also: why are such serious crimes committed by former KSB staff? Coincidence? And: why did so many crimes occur within KSB that never came to criminal charges? We are not talking about money laundering, theft and fraud, crooked dealings with a diamond mine or whatever else may be connected to ominous cash transports in 2018/19. For once, we are only talking about crimes committed directly against people on the mission.

The number of violations of the law on the mission is frightening. And the fact that the cases were all swept under the carpet is disturbing. But the fact that the leadership of the mission today continues to act as if nothing ever happened – that is like the Catholic Church today claiming that sexual abuse never took place within its ranks. Because that is what it is all about in Sizabantu in the first place: sexual abuse seemed to be the order of the day there. And the leadership of the mission knew about it, see above.

The case of Pieter van der Walt is an example of the practice of covering up. The mission worker sexually abused his stepdaughters on the mission for years. One day, when his wife could no longer bear the terrible events surrounding the girls and reported the incidents to Mission Director Erlo Stegen, van der Walt asked to talk to him. Paedophile delinquency, for years – for the “apple of God’s eye”, as they sometimes call Stegen at the mission, it was all not so bad, there were no charges, no expulsion, nothing. The same with Dick V., who was protected even though it was known to the leadership that he was molesting children. David K. was also guilty of abusing minors, but Erlo Stegen and his management circle were not bothered by any of this. The Greytown court has an affidavit stating that “Erlo Stegen and some of his chosen leaders, some of whom are dead, raped or concealed the rape of no less than 6 girls, all of whom were minors at the time.” The mission even mentions that even some of Erlo Stegen’s daughters are said to have experienced what sexual abuse is.

Over the years, chaplains on the KSB mission have had to listen to many reports from women and girls about sexual assaults or even rape. In the final report of the so-called “Independent Commission” paid by KSB to investigate the massive allegations against the scandalous practices of the mission in November 2020 alone, two chaplains are named to whom 18 young women described serious sexual assaults by KSB personnel. Such figures invite speculation about the number of unreported cases: two chaplains at KSB learn of 18 sexual offences, how many such offences will 30, 40 or 50 chaplains have learned of?

Question: Why didn’t those affected or their chaplains file a criminal complaint? It is frustrating, but somehow explainable. For one thing, because both the victims and their chaplains were afraid of losing everything if they brought the mission into disrepute by taking legal action for sexual offences: Family, school, friends, job etc. More crucially, however, they also knew what the above-mentioned affidavit at the Greytown courthouse documents. Namely, that a criminal complaint in the hill country of KwaZulu-Natal was completely futile. The affidavit says: “This sect used the Kranskop and Greytown police stations as always to cover up misdeeds and crimes by members of the sect”. And: “The mission has immense influence on the Kranskop police station”.

With all the monstrosities on KSB, it must not be forgotten that a drama is taking place on the Mission that no one notices – or wants to notice. It is the tragedy of the innocent, namely the fact that on the mission, once as now, there were and are also many blameless, friendly, fundamentally honest people who live the Christian faith in an admirable way, are absolutely peaceful, helpful and well-meaning and do not deserve to be lumped together with the evildoers in their mission. They are innocent of the many aberrations of their brethren, mostly completely unaware and not responsible for the disastrous image of the mission, they suffer from it. But the culture of “looking at oneself” that has been inculcated in them, the habit of blocking out everything negative in order not to contaminate one’s own soul, the danger of being expelled from the mission for passing on information about disreputable events on Sizabantu, the general ban on any criticism and the constant threat of damnation for violating the rules: this is the stuff of which, over time, a trained refusal to recognise realities and draw consequences from them has become. Such a thing may spare people from much worry and hardship – but it helps above all those who do their mischief under this protective umbrella of silence and know that no one around them can tell anyone even a dying word about it.

Question: How can it be that people who belong to an exclusive and once highly respected revival mission lose their Christian compass so much in the midst of a community of brothers and sisters devoted to God that they become criminals? That between sermons on sin and pious togetherness, an almost criminal milieu develops in parts? That they unhesitatingly cross all boundaries of Christian, even secular morality and commit crimes against the defenceless? Or that they leave these victims alone after the horrific events and do not give a damn that crimes were committed here? It is inconceivable, but obviously the protagonists of the mission have got used to the fact that they are the masters of the world there, far away from the state order, and can do whatever they want. They knew, after all, that the KSB leadership will do everything in its power to maintain the image of the model mission, even if its people break laws. The habit of deceiving the world outside and covering up anything that might cast shadows on the shining image seems to have led to a sense of untouchability among some in KSB. According to the motto: Nobody can get us, nobody can catch us. The habit that Kwasizabantu is above the rest of the world, i.e. also above its law, that the good relations with politics and the police make them immune to persecution or even punishment for criminal offences, the belief that God holds his protective hand over them, the awakened ones, above all, All this is a dangerous mixture that over the decades has turned into sheer self-conceit and megalomania, turning some into criminals, plunging many innocent people into misfortune and now gnawing away at the foundations of the entire mission.

A deeper explanation for the aloofness of KSB disciples is given by Dr Peet Botha, himself a witness to the evolution from revival mission to a pseudo-Christian sect.

Question: Is there an explanation for the fact that so many people from the KSB milieu become criminals? There is enough sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church, too, but kidnapping, murder, theft? First super-pious – and then criminal, how can that be? Do you have an answer to that?

Answer Dr. Botha: “Perhaps the answer lies in the concept of spiritual “entitlement”. For the super pious, it is as if they have the right to decide what they want to do for themselves (positive) and others (negative), and then justify it by saying that they are representatives of “spiritual righteousness” as super pious and righteous. It simply boils down to the belief that because of who you are, in this case the superior form, you inherently deserve privileges and special treatment because you represent what the bourgeoisie can never be. Psychologically, this is rooted in the belief that the superior forms are the chosen ones and should be admired, revered, and respected, and that therefore, in a spiritual sense, rules (read the Biblical rules) do not apply to them, since they really invent, implement, and teach the rules, and thus control people’s lives and environments. So the rules are theirs and as such they are above the rules. Their decisions are made in heaven, so to speak, or at least justified, sanctified and approved in heaven by God Himself. Moreover, spiritual unfoldment is a narcissistic trait based on personal insecurities. The bottom line, then, is that spiritual and thus psychological aspiration, as seen in KSB leadership, is characterized by the pervasive manifestation of deservingness, specialness, and inflated expectations. Descartes put it this way – I think, therefore I am. Or simply, do as I say, not as I do!”

It is a fact that members of the mission’s leadership, on their revivalist flight of fancy, have made themselves guilty for years by deceiving and covering up in countless cases, not only from a Christian but also from a secular moral point of view. Although they cannot be legally prosecuted for obstruction of justice , from an ethical perspective they should be judged as such. Erlo Stegen, the eloquent preacher against all that is sin, has indeed thwarted or obstructed the administration of justice by covering up many crimes. On KwaSizabantu, obstruction of justice has been practised on a grand scale in the moral sense – especially by the boss, Erlo Stegen, himself.

Only in one of the cases of sexual abuse on the mission that came to their attention did the leadership of Mission KwaSizabantu not commit obstruction of justice. Because, contrary to their custom, they did not cover it up but actually reported it: the case of Daan van Tonder. And that is how it happened: When the husband of a daughter of the head of the mission had begun to question the nightly transports of tens of millions of rands in plastic bags across the country to always the same Mr Ndlela, he had to be disposed of, so to speak – he had become too dangerous. He was abducted against his will to a farm in Lichtenburg, where he was forced to write down sins he had committed. Hard to believe: he confessed that he had persuaded his daughter to masturbate him. Now the sexual offence was a ready-made meal for Erlo Stegen, Lidia Dube and Co, because they could use it well for their own purposes: criminal charges, court proceedings – eight years in prison for Daan van Tonder. Now they were finally rid of his uncomfortable questions.

In 2020, a former KSB employee wrote in a letter to the editors of the News24 news platform that following the revelations by many media outlets about the mission, there were several questions that needed to be answered by KwaSizabantu. One of his questions was:

 “Mission KwaSizabantu opened a case against XXX for sexual misconduct in July 2019 and he is currently in prison awaiting trial. In how many of the rape cases reported to the Kwasizabantu leadership has the mission also opened cases at the SAPS against the alleged perpetrators?”

Questions upon questions. The KwaSizabantu Mission has never answered this question either.