Pick n Pay and Makro demand answers from KwaSizabantu amid abuse allegations

Business Insider SA
KwaSizabantu. Chanté Schatz
News24 Chanté Schatz

  • KwaSizabantu, a 50-year-old Christian mission in KwaZulu-Natal is accused of gross human rights violations and ignoring sexual crimes.
  • The mission, founded by Erlo Stegen, owns the aQuellé sparkling water plant and supplies the popular sparkling water to various giant retailers in the country.
  • KwaSizabantu also owns Emseni Farming which supplies fruit and vegetables to retailers such as Woolworths, Checkers, Shoprite and Spar.
  • Some retailers are now demanding answers from the mission to decide whether they will continue business relations with its companies. 
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Pick n Pay and Makro have reached out to KwaSizabantu, the owner of aQuellé sparkling water and vegetable supplier Emseni Farming, for answers as its KwaZulu-Natal mission stands accused of gross human rights violations and abuse.   

KwaSizabantu is a Christian mission founded by Erlo Stegen in 1970.  In a series of News24 reports –  supported by accounts  from victims –  information surfaced that some church members suffered physical, sexual and psychological abuse. The mission also faces accusations of alleged money laundering.

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

Through one of its companies, Ekhamanzi Springs, the mission supplies aQuellé products to some of South Africa's giant retailers including Pick n Pay, Makro, Spar, Shoprite, Checkers and Food Lover’s Market.

Massmart Holdings, owner of Makro, told Business Insider on Monday that the group heard about the allegations over the weekend and had contacted KwaSizabantu for answers.  

"We became aware of the appalling KwaSizabantu allegations via weekend media reports.

“Our first order of business this morning was to establish contact with KwaSizabantu to express our deep concern, and to request an urgent and detailed, written response to the allegations. We followed-up this request at around 12:00 today.

“All options are on the table in terms of our approach going forward, which will be determined by the response that we receive from KwaSizabantu,” said the group.

Pick n Pay, which sells aQuellé products, also wants answers. "We have seen these serious allegations and have asked the supplier to give us their response," said the retailer.

In addition to Ekhamanzi Springs, KwaSizabantu also fully owns Emseni Farming which supplies fruit and vegetables to Woolworths, Checkers, Shoprite and Spar. 

Shoprite previously told News24 that it would review its procurement from Emseni Farming should any adverse legal findings be made against it.

The retailer said Emseni Farming had been its supplier for the past 10 years, supplying sweet peppers, lettuce, and dragon fruit to their supermarkets in KwaZulu-Natal.

Woolworths told News24 it was aware of previous allegations made in the media against KwaSizabantu."We take allegations such as these very seriously. As far as our supplier is aware, no formal charges have been laid for authorities to investigate.

"Independent auditors have visited the supplier and reported that the supplier adheres to our code of business principles for ethical and sustainable business practices," the company stated.

It did not respond to a query on Monday about its continued relationship with Emseni.

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