A staff member at the Makro Woodmead store removes bottles of aQuellé water from shelves. Massmart on Tuesday suspended sales of the product following serious allegations against the owner of the branded water.
  • Makro and Game, as well as Food Lover's Market, are the latest retailers to cut ties with the businesses associated with the KwaSizabantu mission
  • Makro staff were seen removing the popular water brand aQuellé from shelves.
  • Woolworths and Spar announced earlier on Tuesday that they would not buy products from companies related to the controversial KZN mission.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Walmart-owned Massmart – owner of Makro and Game – and Food Lover’s Market have joined Spar and Woolworths in cutting ties with the businesses associated with the controversial KwaSizabantu mission in KwaZulu-Natal.

The mission is at the centre of a storm of allegations, published on News24, that some church members suffered physical, sexual and psychological abuse. It also faces accusations of fraud.

READ | Exodus | The case of the missing millions: Hawks investigating financial fraud at Mission KwaSizabantu

KwaSizabantu is associated with a number of businesses, including Emseni Farming – which supplies peppers, lettuce and other products to big retailers – as well as Ekhamanzi Springs, which owns the popular bottled water brand aQuellé.

On Tuesday, employees at Makro were seen removing aQuellé water from store shelves, and Massmart confirmed that it has severed ties with the supplier.

“In light of the serious allegations in ongoing media reports, Massmart has suspended the sale of aQuelle water, which is manufactured by Ekhamanzi, pending the outcome of their own internal, and recently confirmed South African Police Services and independent third party, investigations,” a spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, police minister Bheki Cele confirmed that the police are investigating the mission, and the South African Human Rights Commission also said its KZN office will follow up on allegations published on News24.

Late on Tuesday, Food Lover’s Market also announced that it will no longer buy aQuellé products.

“We are aware of the allegations against KwaSizabantu Mission and also its link to Ekhamanzi Springs, which supplies aQuellé products. We find the allegations most disturbing and we are taking it very seriously,” the retailer said in a statement.

“As soon as we became aware of the media reports, our national buyer reached out to aQuellé management and asked for an urgent response to these allegations. Any action we take in this matter will be determined by the response from aQuellé, as well as the outcome of the police and civil investigations into the matter.

“Until such time that these investigations are concluded and we are satisfied that the allegations are false, we will procure no further products from aQuellé.”

Woolworths was the first major retailer to sever ties with a KwaSizabantu company. It announced early on Tuesday that it will stop doing business with Emseni Farming, which supplies it with peppers, as it awaits further information about allegations of abuse and fraud at the mission.

Spar also suspended its orders from Emseni as well as Ekhamanzi Springs, and said it will only resume business with the companies if they can prove that all the allegations related to KwaSizabantu were false. Failing that, the companies will have to show that they have remedied all the problems at the mission.

On Tuesday, aQuellé’s announced the appointment of a panel to investigate the allegations.

Shoprite said it will continue to monitor the situation, and will review its procurement from Emseni Farming should any “adverse legal findings” be made against it. For the past decade, Shoprite has bought sweet peppers, lettuce, and dragon fruit from Emseni.

Pick n Pay, which sells aQuellé products, is still engaging with Ekhamanzi. "We have seen these serious allegations and have asked the supplier to give us their response," said the retailer.

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