A witness appearing at the CRL Commission’s hearings investigating criminal allegations against Kwasizabantu Christian mission (KSB) has testified that the controversial organisation could be described as a “cult”.
Dr Peet Botha appeared at the commission’s hearings on Thursday. The hearings began in KwaZulu-Natal last week and have now moved to Joburg and will eventually hear witnesses in the Western Cape.
The mission, which is a church based in KwaZulu-Natal, has been accused of being a cult after accusations of money laundering, fraud and sexual abuse were levelled against the organisation.
Botha had worked as a pastor at the mission for several years and had come across 10 cases of rape and assault that he alleges took place at the organisation.
He said he believes KSB started as a good organisation, but all evidence presented seems to show cult-like characteristics. Botha said how the organisation deals with emotional control through structural limitations lean towards problematic attributes.
He said another problem was members of the mission were convinced that there was no salvation outside the KSB.
“In my mind what had started as good has morphed over time into a Christian cult,” Botha said.
The doctor detailed how he had been aware of 10 cases of rape against the organisation.
The first case involved a 16-year-old girl who he alleges was raped by a pastor and when she reported the issue to an elder pastor, he too raped her. Botha said when he brought the issue before the mission’s leadership, he was told it was handled when it was not.
Another case involved a girl who was raped at knifepoint at the mission and was threatened not to speak about the incident. The girl tried to commit suicide twice as she never received help from the mission.
Botha said victims had no recourse and were left to deal with the trauma on their own.
“They (mission’s leaders) are guilty of prejudging the victims when they deny that these things happen on their watch,” Botha said.
Botha warned the CRL commission that KSB leadership were liars. He said he had received threats and a defamation case had been laid against him for speaking out.
Another witness Louis Erasmus, who worked as a consultant for the KSB, said he too believed in the greatness of the organisation but he later realised it was not. Erasmus said he brought his family and spent weeks residing at the mission’s compound while he worked for its Doctor’s For Life unit.
Erasmus described the mission’s counselling system as problematic as it relied heavily on confessions of members.
Members were forced to admit their “sins” to people who had abused them, Erasmus alleged.
“Many of those who are denying the truth do so because they have confessed their deepest secrets to the mission,” he testified.
KSB’s lawyers last week walked out of hearings and alleged unfair treatment. It is unclear whether they will return to answer to the allegations levelled against the church.