Spar has followed Woolworths in severing ties with the businesses associated with KwaSizabantu.
Spar group merchandise executive Mike Prentice confirmed to Business Insider that the group has suspended orders from Ekhamanzi Springs, which owns the water brand aQuellé, as well as for fruit and vegetables from Emseni Farming. In KwaZulu-Natal, some Spar franchises also sell Bonlé, a yogurt brand which is associated with KwaSizabantu.
At a national level, the chain has decided not to place new orders with all business associated with KwaSizabantu.
The Spar distribution centre has put on hold the ordering of fresh stock with immediate effect, however stores may still sell products that remain on shelves.
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.
Spar will only resume business with the companies if they can prove that all the allegations related to KwaSizabantu were false, says Prentice. Failing that, the companies will have to show that they have remedied all the problems at the mission.
Prentice says he takes note of aQuellé’s move to appoint a panel to investigate the allegations published in the News24 reports.
Earlier on Tuesday, Woolworths said it had stopped doing business with Emseni Farming, as it awaits further information about allegations of abuse and fraud at the mission.
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.
In a statement on Tuesday, Shoprite said it has made enquiries with the suppliers associated with KwaSizabantu with regards to the allegations. It will continue to monitor the situation.
It will review its procurement from Emseni Farming should any adverse legal findings be made against it. For the past decade, Shoprite has bought sweet peppers, lettuce, and dragon fruit from Emseni.
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.
“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.