• Woolworths has stopped buying products from a supplier owned by KwaSizabantu.
  • It is waiting for more information about accusations of gross human rights violations and ignoring sexual crimes, as well as fraud at the KZN mission.
  • The mission owns the aQuellé bottled water brand, as well as a business which supplies fruit and vegetables to some of SA's biggest retailers.
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Woolworths has stopped doing business with the fruit and vegetable supplier owned by the controversial KwaSizabantu, as it awaits further information about allegations of abuse and fraud at the mission.

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 fraud.

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

KwaSizabantu also owns Emseni Farming which supplies pepper to Woolworths and other fruit and vegetables to Checkers, Shoprite and Spar. 

“Woolworths has been made aware of the allegations against the KwaSizabantu Mission. Emseni Farming, our supplier, farms on land owned by the mission and, while the allegations do not implicate Emseni, we take allegations such as these very seriously and will offer authorities any assistance they may require.  We have ceased all orders with Emseni Farming while we await further information from them,” a Woolworths spokesperson said. 

Woolworths buys peppers from Emseni.

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.

Through one of its companies, Ekhamanzi Springs, the mission also supplies aQuellé bottled water 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.

“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.

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