Witnesses who testified before the Commission for Promotion and Protection of the Rights and Cultural Religious and Linguistic Community (CRL Commission) in Durban have defended the KwaSizabantu Mission, which is accused of human rights violations.
The mission, which is in Kranskop in northern KwaZulu-Natal, is being probed after it came under the spotlight following allegations of abuse and money laundering by some of its members.
The commission is sitting in Durban for the second time in October.
Witnesses told the CRL commission that those making accusations against the leaders of KwaSizabantu Mission are just disgruntled former congregants set to destroy the good work done by the church.
The commission has already heard evidence from the alleged victims of rape and abuse.
One of the witnesses, who is defending the church, Anita Van Der Walt, also discredited evidence that was given by her sister, Marietjie Bothma.
Bothma, who testified two weeks ago before the commission in Johannesburg, revealed how she was sexually assaulted, emotionally, and verbally abused at the mission. But Van Der Walt has told the commission that she has never witnessed any physical abuse at the mission.
She said when she was sexually abused by her stepfather at a young age the leadership at the mission stepped in. “Well, personally, from my own experience, as I say I’m here to tell you my side. I have never ever witnessed such a beating. I personally never received such a beating and I can tell you I was not an angel. And never did anything wrong. Of course, I became mischievous as all children do and I’ve never received a beating as being described in the media,” says Van Der Walt.
Accusations of human rights violations:
Effects of the allegations
The exposé against the mission has triggered many retailers that were doing business with the mission to pull out from their shelves all products produced by the mission.
Another witness, Karen Van Eeden, who has stayed at the mission for 37 years, has told the commission that people who are saying negative things about the mission are just disgruntled members who want to destroy mission.
“I know it is the disgruntled members of the mission who left us. Well, if you are disgruntled from it or by it, surely you will find fault with it. They also have the aim to take over the mission because they want to coin the money.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Elfrieda Fleischman believes there are people who are working behind these allegations who want to take over businesses of the mission.
“It feels as if there’s something behind this and it’s something that has been arranged beforehand. I read an article that says it is a million billion rand enterprise. Then it feels to me, the root of all evil is money and there’s some person or others behind this that want to push away this Zulu leadership that has been the mission. The mission started 50 years ago.”
However, another witness Sibonelo Cele who also appeared before the commission believes that the mission is violating human rights.
“The expulsions were not limited to the school. It took place at the mission as well in regards to adults. In this regard, one thing I need to mention is that as a result of the expulsion that will take place at the mission, even today some of the people that are still within the mission who want to speak out cannot leave the mission because they do not have means of supporting themselves out of Kwasizabantu. They do not wish to speak out in fear of being expelled and losing their homes.”
The hearings are continuing in Durban. The leaders of the mission are also expected to appear before the commission next month.
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