By Celani Sikhakhane
Reverend Erlo Hartwig Stegen of KwaZulu-Natal, who drew headlines after he was accused of running a religious cult, has died aged 88.
This comes merely two months after his name was cleared by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.
His image was tarnished back in 2000 when former members of the KwaSizabantu Mission came forward with claims of psychological, sexual, and physical abuse, as well as sinister mind control.
While these allegations were initially rejected by the mission, they resurfaced in 2020 after an expose by News24. This prompted an investigation by the South African Human Rights Commission.
The seriousness of the accusations nearly jeopardised the mission’s business partnerships with major retailers, including Woolworths, Shoprite, and Makro.
However, Stegen and his mission were absolved of all allegations in July.
Stegen’s KwaSizabantu Mission, established in 1970 in the remote kwaMaphumulo region of Kranskop, is notable for its inclusivity, gathering worshippers of varied backgrounds and races under one roof.
In addition, Stegen founded several enterprises that have financially supported the mission over the years, including Saverite supermarkets, an avocado farm, Radio Khwezi, and the Domino Servito School, which began in 1986.
He was born on 2 March 1935 to Carl and Irmgard Stegen on their family farm, Paardefontein, in KZN.
His death was confirmed by an official statement from the KwaSizabantu Mission.
“Erlo’s call was to all the people of South Africa, and in doing this work, a powerful and lasting bond was born with the Zulu nation,” the statement read.
Pictured above: Reverend Erlo Stergen alongside the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and ex-president Jacob Zuma
Image source: Twitter