Marietjie Bothma, a woman who grew up at the controversial KwaSizabantu Mission, has implicated mission leader Erlo Stegen’s daughters in sexual abuse at the mission, in testimony before the CRL Rights Commission

Bothma alleged that, when she was a child, she was made to “suck on the breasts” of Stegen’s daughters – Ruth Combrink and Elizabeth Vermaak – the commission heard on Thursday.

Combrink has previously spoken on behalf of the mission in response to the allegations of abuse against the mission.

The mission had previously denied allegations of abuse and said many of the allegations pertain to specific individuals, and not the mission as a whole.

Bothma said her abuse began in the 1990s at the Stegen household when the Stegen children “tormented” her and her siblings.

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“The first encounter I recall was Erlo Stegen’s own children, his daughters, namely Ruth Stegen, who is now Combrink, and Elizabeth [Vermaak], who used to torment us – the young children in the house – we had to suck on their breasts and do other things – touch other things on their body.

“[T]hey used to take it as a game, telling us they’re playing the moms,” Bothma testified.

In tears she added: “When we would talk about [it], they used to punish me by putting pepper water in my mouth – I was only a child [younger] than five,”

Bothma testified about her years of abuse at KwaSizabantu within her home and the mission’s school.

She described how her adoptive father had sexually assaulted her and her sister – but while the mission claimed he had been “dealt with”, Bothma said he never was and instead fled the mission.

On multiple occasions, Bothma said she was severely beaten and, at times, with other children in public.

Ex KwaSizabantu member claims people were ‘beaten until they peed in their pants’

She described how, when she came to the mission’s school with wet hair on one occasion, the teacher took her by her feet “and mopped the floor with me”.

“I remember reporting one of my counsellors for making me touch them as punishment before they read the bible verse that I had to be humble and do what Erlo [Stegen] said.

“I got locked up for days – my punishment was always worse because I was not one of them [Stegen]. They used to lock me up in a tiny little room above the auditorium, sometimes for two weeks.

“My mother would come in the middle of the night with [food and water], so that I can eat something and, when my father found out that she did that, he [would beat her].”

Bothma’s allegations against KwaSizabantu was carried in a News24 exposé, Exodus.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) launched an investigation into the allegations and has been hearing testimony for the past two weeks.

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