Durban – PREMIER Sihle Zikalala has asked South Africa’s major food retailers to reconsider their decision to remove aQuellé, owned by KwaSizabantu Mission, from their shelves after it was alleged that there was rampant abuse at the mission in Kranskop.
Zikalala expressed these concerns yesterday at a media briefing aimed at giving the country an update on provincial efforts to fight Covid-19.
“We strongly believe that the ban on products from KwaSizabantu by some of the retailers is unfair and misinformed. It is wrong for retailers to ban such products while the investigation is ongoing.
“More importantly, most of the alleged human rights abuses seem to have happened some time ago. The worst to come is the devastating effect of loss of jobs and the perpetuation of poverty in the area. As the provincial government, we will seek to engage with all retailers that have banned KwaSizabantu products.”
He said they would ask the retailers to withdraw the ban and allow investigations to occur. “If the allegations were true against some members of the mission, then those responsible will have to be dealt with accordingly.”
Last week, the Daily News reported that the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Investigation Committee was in Durban investigating charges of cultism at the mission, founded in 1970 by German evangelist Erlo Hartwig Stegen. Other charges being investigated by the police included money laundering and physical and sexual abuse dating back to the 1980s.
These charges, which were first exposed by News24, resulted in Pick * Pay, Makro and Shoprite, among other retailers, cutting ties with aQuellé.
Zikalala said the provincial government would be conducting its own investigation.
“As part of our commitment to the protection of basic human rights, we have appointed a team led by Human Settlements MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, as the MEC Champion of the District, to work with all stakeholders, especially government, to establish facts and assist the ongoing investigation.”
The premier also pledged his support for the work that is being done by the CRL Commission.
Zikalala updated the media on the Covid-19 situation in the province. He said KZN had seen a decline in the number of new cases and deaths. Until this weekend, KZN had 3004 deaths, with eThekwini leading with 1449 deaths, followed by uMgungundlovu District with 444 deaths and King Cetshwayo district with 265 deaths. It was not only the death rate of the general population that he highlighted, but also that of health-care workers on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic.
“A total of 7730 health-care workers (HCWs) were infected with Covid-19. Above 70% of the infected HCWs have recovered. Of the total infected, 68 (1%) succumbed to the disease. The majority of the infected health care workers were nurses (58%) and lay counsellors (35%),” Zikalala said.