‘She is given a savage beating, the adults impervious to her screams. I have to look at her. I am not allowed to look away and I am not allowed to cry. I am not allowed to show any emotion at all. Because if I do, I will be next.’
In the 1980s, Erika Bornman’s family join, and ultimately move to, KwaSizabantu, a Christian mission based in KwaZulu-Natal, which is touted as a nirvana, founded on egalitarian values. But something sinister lurks beneath ‘the place where people are helped’.
Life at KwaSizabantu is hard. Christianity is used to justify harsh punishments and congregants are forced to repent for their sins. Threats of physical violence ensure adherence to stringent rules. Parents are pitted against children. Friendships are discouraged. Isolated and alone, Erika lives in constant fear of eternal damnation.
At 17, her grooming at the hands of a senior mission counsellor begins. For the next five years, KwaSizabantu wages emotional, psychological and sexual warfare on her, until, finally, she manages to break free and walk away at the age of 21.
Escaping a restrictive religious community is difficult, but rehabilitation into ‘normal’ life after a decade of ritual humiliation, brainwashing and abuse is much more painful, as Erika soon discovers. She cannot ignore her knowledge of the grievous human-rights abuses being committed at KwaSizabantu, and so she embarks on a quest to expose the atrocities. With her help, News24 launches a seven-month investigation, culminating in a podcast that will go on to win the internationally renowned One World Media Award for Radio and Podcast in 2021.
In Mission of Malice: My Exodus from KwaSizabantu, Erika chronicles her journey from a fearful young girl to a fierce activist determined to do whatever it takes to save future generations and find personal redemption and self-acceptance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erika Bornman has carved a career for herself in magazine publishing, despite her lack of formal training, and has written for various publications, including Fairlady, Hot! and Cosmopolitan. She has also edited several custom magazines, including titles for Mediclinic, Sun International and Old Mutual. She lives in Cape Town with her two cats.
Mission of Malice: My exodus from KwaSizabantu is published by Penguin Random House South Africa