On Tuesday the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) heard testimonies from victims who have allegedly suffered from various human rights violations, including rape, at the KwaSizabantu Mission in KwaZulu-Natal.
The 50-year-old KwaSizabantu Mission has been likened to operating as a cult and faces other allegations including performing “virginity tests” on young girls, underpaying workers and causing destruction to families. The mission’s Ekhamanzi Springs plant is the source of aQuellé bottled water and since an exposé on the mission, many retailers have pulled the products off the shelves.
One victim shared her experience of being expelled from the school and being disowned by her family after false accusations that she had been in a relationship with a leader in the church. The victim said that they did not know what family values were, because parents would take instructions from the church and the church’s values would become the values she was taught. She continued saying that when she returned to the school later on she was allegedly raped and told by church leaders that it was a mistake.
Another victim said that she was raped nearly four decades ago and when she reported it to a counsellor, she was told to never speak about it.
According to reports, Pastor Pieter Becker, who spent his formative years and was a preacher for nearly two decades at the mission, told the commission that many children allegedly suffered physical abuse and were often subjected to racism with regards to the hair policy. He alleges that black girls were forced to shave their heads. He also recalled a situation where the rape of a co-worker was swept under the rug.
He added that he often cried at night because of the way some of the people in the area wanted nothing to do with God, not because they did not want God, but because they did not want the God of KwaSizabantu.
Church leaders from the KwaSizanbantu mission are expected to appear before the commission on Wednesday, 7 October.