Durban – Emotions ran high on Monday during hearings into allegations of cultism, human rights violations, sexual abuse and corporal punishment against KwaSizabantu Mission.
The 50-year-old mission in Kranskop is at the centre of controversy following accusations by alleged victims who were pupils at the mission school.
Celimpilo Malinga, 45, wept through her testimony, saying she had lived on the streets after being expelled from the mission school and being disowned by her family for being falsely accused of being in a relationship with a church elder.
“At the mission we were taught that speaking to a boy was not allowed and that you would get pregnant,” she said.
Talking about sex was taboo and chapters in books that taught sexual education were torn out.
Seen talking to the elder, who offered her a chocolate, she was summoned to the church leaders.
“They accused me of being in a relationship with him. I was not given a chance to talk. My parents were called and told I was disrespectful, and I was assaulted,” she said.
Malinga fought tears describing leaving the mission with only the clothes on her back, aged 15.
“My menstruation started on that day and I slept on the street,” she said. She blamed the mission for “manufacturing mean people”.
“We never knew our parents’ voices, the church was their voice. Our parents took instructions from the church. We never had family values, we had church values,” she said.
Malinga later worked as a nanny, and decided to return to school, where she was raped and became pregnant.
Malinga reconciled with her father many years later, shortly before he died. He told her to go to the mission, where her woes had started.
“The church leaders told me it was a mistake and they were sorry. I thought of the pain I went through, and for them to say sorry was not good enough. I told them to also tell my family this, but they refused, saying it was between my family and I,” she said, in tears.
“Today I want the mission to account because there is no use closing it down; the walls did not do anything wrong to us, but it is the people within the mission. I am haunted by the memories of Sizabantu Mission until today,” she said.
Another woman told the commission she was raped 35 years ago. When she reported the incident to her counsellor, she was told never to speak about it to anyone, not even her parents.
She kept the secret and only told her husband when she got married.
The couple opened a rape case last November, after the counsellor had left the mission. “The reason we are here before the commission is because we want answers about what happened to the case,” said the couple.
“Confession was done all the time and we were made to believe that the more you confessed, the better you are. My counsellor had told me that now that I had brought my rape incident to him, God had forgiven me.
“We were made to believe that we were sinners. I left the mission and realised that this was not true,” she said.