Former residents of KwaSizabantu tell of alleged sexual and emotional abuse
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“I still battle with depression. I still battle with nightmares from what happened. They cannot grasp those words ‘I never want to see you again’ by the leader of the mission because to you the leader of the mission was God and he does not want to see you again.”
Those were the closing remarks of a former KwaSizabantu (KSB) mission resident during her testimony on Tuesday before the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic (CRL) Communities, that is investigating allegations of rape and human rights abuses at the rural Kranskop mission.
Some of the alleged incidents, which include child abuse and punishment for disobeying allegedly cultic rules, took place more than 20 years ago.
However, KSB’s leadership has denied in written submissions to the CRL the mission had been operated as a cult as well as the slew of allegations levelled against it by former members. KSB claimed some of the alleged victims had testified under duress and claimed former members were attempting to take over the mission’s successful business ventures.
LSB representative Ruth Combrink earlier said the CRL process had been “fatally flawed” and the mission had been co-operating with the police.
The victim who testified on Tuesday alleged leaders at the mission had accused her niece of having “a spirit that breaks up marriages” and that she had been subjected to daily sessions where she was accused and told she was “a satanist”.
She alleged her niece had been locked in a small room where she was raped before being sent to a psychiatric ward in hospital.
She alleged she had also been sexually abused and raped at the mission, where she lived from 1990 to 1994 when she was “chased away” by leaders after “disobeying” the rules.
She said she had stayed at the mission after being abused and “landing in hard places” in her life.
She said a leader at the mission had told her to stop wearing pants and make-up and to put on a dress.
She said the leader destroyed her clothes and make-up at one of its “fire services” which were held so that people could get rid of things that were “encumbering your faith”.
“The mission is really a very, very hard place, very harsh on anybody who oversteps the line and then they chase you away. The mental abuse was terrible and I was sexually abused by Mr (name withheld) and by other people at the mission, but I have learned to carry on past that.
“I went on sleeping therapy for 12 days but what happened to my niece was the worst for me,” she said.
She said she eventually fled the mission after one of the leaders chased her away.
She said when he had told her he never wanted to see her face again, it was as if God was rejecting her.
“On the inside there is a fear that God will never accept me again and I will never be able to enter heaven,” she said.
Another witness, a former local councillor, Mlangeni Gasela told the CRL panel men and women were not allowed to speak to each other at the mission and relationships were forbidden.
However, he alleged abandoned newborn babies had been delivered and found at the mission.
CRL chairperson Professor Luka Mosoma said the commission had engaged with KSB and was providing it with transcriptions of the testimonies which have been heard in Durban and Johannesburg this month.
He said the CRL planned to meet with KSB in due course.