aQuellé mineral water, owned by the KwaSizabantu Mission, sponsors the annual Midmar Mile swimming event at Howick. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt
On Saturday, News24 published the result of a seven-month investigation into allegations of gross human rights violations and abuse at KwaSizabantu Mission. You can make a difference by not buying their unholy water, writes Adriaan Basson.
Dear News24 reader, I have a small request. Before you buy your next bottle of aQuellé mineral or flavoured water, please first read our investigative series on the KwaSizabantu (KSB) Mission in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
EXODUS | Uncovering a cult in KwaZulu-Natal
aQuellé is owned by Ekhamanzi Springs that is owned by the mission. When you drink aQuellé, you are directly contributing to the financial wellbeing of a “house of horrors”, as one of KSB’s survivors told News24 in our documentary, Exodus.
On Saturday, News24 published one of the most comprehensive investigations yet into this shady “Christian” mission nestled in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Our revelations have already attracted the attention of the authorities. Watch this space.
After decades of physical, spiritual and psychological abuse suffered at the hands of KwaSizabantu’s Brother Leader, Erlo Stegen, his sidekick, Lidia Dube, and their loyal followers, the survivors of KSB have had enough. They are speaking out in a loud and thunderous voice about being raped, beaten, threatened, manipulated and abused at what is supposed to be a kind and loving haven.
Now they need the rest of South Africa to support them in their efforts to expose the fear, propaganda and lies of one of the most successful cults on the continent.
KwaSizabantu wasn’t only successful in assisting the apartheid regime to “remove” ANC activists in the 1980s and 1990s. Since the late 1990s, the mission has been rolling in the cash by establishing one of the first major bottled water plants in South Africa.
EXODUS | What is KwaSizabantu Mission?
aQuellé is a very recognisable brand of mineral water, farmed from the natural springs at KwaSizabantu’s sprawling farms in KwaZulu-Natal and from a natural resource they purchased in Franschhoek. No mention is made on their website of aQuellé’s link to KwaSizabantu.
Google “aQuellé” and you will see pictures of young, beautiful, healthy people sipping on their bottles of mineral water, wearing active wear of swimsuits. aQuellé sponsors the famous Midmar Mile. During the lockdown, the brand even launched a “spread the kindness” campaign.
Oh, the irony.
When you read the testimonies of the survivors who spoke to News24, you will soon realise the KwaSizabantu cult couldn’t be further removed from the lifestyle portrayed in the glitzy advertisements for their water brand, aQuellé.
“Erlo (Stegen) told me I was a whore, slut and a Delilah and I was barred from having anything to do with my counsellor and his family. Erlo expressly forbade me to discuss this with anyone, including my mother,” said Erika Bornman, who was sexually assaulted by a counsellor at KSB. This was allegedly Stegen’s reaction when she told him of the abuse.
She didn’t experience the “acts of kindness” aQuellé promotes on its website.
When Marietjie Bothma was taken to Stegen after eating custard as a child, she also didn’t experience the kindness aQuellé preaches. “Erlo punished and beat us a lot. I was once undressed and hit with a piece of leather for stealing custard meant for visitors.”
Celimpilo Malinga doesn’t remember “acts of kindness” when she thinks back to her days as a child at KwaSizabantu. “All I knew was a life of confession. The psyche of that place was based on fear – fear of making mistakes, fear of God returning and finding you not ready. Fear drove everything,” she told News24.
After Chantal Engelbrecht was raped as a 15-year old at KwaSizabantu, Stegen allegedly did not have kind words for her, but told her never to talk about the crime and that she was a whore and a prostitute. Not even the fact that she was Stegen’s niece helped her to escape his wrath.
And a lifestyle of happiness, swimsuits and sparkling water was the furthest thing from Amanda’s* mind when she was raped and assaulted by a mission member last year after trying to escape from KwaSizabantu. “While raping me, he said to me: ‘After this, you will never sin again’,” she told News24. She asked not to be identified.
KwaSizabantu is sadly not the first nor the last cult that will see the light of day in South Africa. The abuse of religion to acquire profit and power is not a new phenomenon, but one that has destroyed many innocent lives over hundreds of years.
Think of Pastors Lethebo Rabalago, Shepherd Bushiri and the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministry.
Often, the leaders of cults escape prosecution or punishment because of the fear the installed in their followers.
But in this case, you have a real opportunity to make a difference. By not buying aQuellé bottled water, you will withdraw the financing of this cult and send a clear message to KwaSizabantu to come clean about decades of manipulation and abuse.
If you work at or own any of these businesses, who buy, distribute or sell aQuellé water and the fruit and vegetables farmed by KSB’s Emseni Farming, kindly implore your bosses to watch the Exodus documentary, listen to the podcast and read our first-hand accounts before writing the next purchasing order:
- Pick n Pay
- Super Group
- Henry’s Distribution
- Africa Aqua Distributors
- Do you have a KwaSizabantu story to tell us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Basson is editor-in-chief of News24
Read the original article on News 24