My ancestors arrived from Hanover via Hamburg aboard a ship named after the legendary Queen of Sheba, from Ethiopia
My dad Ernfried Bartels was commonly known as Ernie. He went to High School during the Second World War at the Hermannsburg Mission School just outside of the dorp of Kranskop. The school was the location of the original Mission established by Harms for evangelizing within South Africa. The original commune structure exists in that location to this day. It was also the school attended by the first prime minister of South Africa, Louis Botha.
My dad was aware that he was at a German school and at that the moment in time South Africans were in North Africa and Italy fighting the German nation because of the fascist policies and belligerence of the Nazis. He made make the choice to not associate with that grouping of Germans. He was no fascist.
He ran the Comrades Marathon and came in 69th in 1959. His stories about the race encouraged my brother to have a life long passion for running and my brother would end up finishing 10 Comrade Marathons.
My dad would not appear in any history books written about South Africa but deep down he had something sorely lacking in some of his contemporaries, integrity.
The Cult of Kwasizabantu
Also located outside Kranskop is the Kwasizbantu Mission that includes a greenhouse facility, dairy and water bottling plant. The latter facility is branded as aQuellé and is available from many retail outlets within South Africa. To all intends and purposes Kwasizabantu has given itself an air of sophistication in delivering Christian missionary work amongst the Zulus of the Valley of a Thousand Hills but was at its heart it is a cult. It has developed a self-sustaining model of financing its activities by creating various farming and business entities. Although there have always been undercurrents of abuse leaked and known to the outside community, it was only during the year of the pandemic that News24 finally exposed them for what they are in a string of stories revealing the perverted inner workings of the cult.
The ship Kandaze
My dad's family traces its African roots to Christof Bartels, a missionary, who arrived aboard the ship Kandaze at Port Natal, the year after George Grey returned to England. The Kandaze was named after the legendary Queens of Ethiopia and belonged to the Hermannsburg Mission Society. The Society was originally meant to convert the heathen Galla, (commonly known as the Oromo) of Ethiopia to Christianity. Instead, the missionaries were declared persona non-grata in Ethiopia which was under the influence of the Coptic Church and ruled by Sultan Seyyid Said, the Muslimic sovereign. They searched for alternative converts, which happened to be the Zulu of Southern Africa. Thus, the Kandaze docked at Port Natal, now known as Durban or eThekwini, instead of Ethiopia. Elsewhere in Southern Africa a prominent theologian named Andrew Murray was leading a revival.
The bible refers to the conversion to Christianity of one the Queens of Ethiopia’s officials in Acts 8:27-39. The succession for the throne in Ethiopia was matrilineal. Harms obviously named the ship for his missionary work after this legendary biblical figure.
Christof was in love with a girl name Charlotte. After his arrival in Natal, he learned she had dumped him. The broken-hearted Christof crossed out all references to her in his diary, which included detailed logs of his journey on the Kandaze. He would eventually marry Auguste, who left Hanover on what could be best described as a long-distance blind date. They would spend more than a half a century together and die three months apart in the year that the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank.
Before becoming an ordained Lutheran pastor, Christof had been a cavalry officer in the Hanoverian army of the Saxe-coburg and Gotha. This army experience would help him as he established many congregations amongst the Zulus. His first congregation was established when he was ambushed by two Zulus at Emhlangane in Kwazulu-Natal. He was riding on horseback and instead of carrying a lance, as he did when he was in the cavalry, he would carry a large stick. He was a highly trained and skilled military man as well as an excellent horseman. He set amongst the two Zulus and administered a good beating. He admonished them and told them that he was coming by in one month again, and by that time he wanted them to have started on the building of a church. When he arrived back a month later, the two men had gathered all their families at the location and so his first congregation was created.
The Zulus are abrasive and are well versed in battle. It was no wonder that those Zulu’s appreciated a man who wielded a stick in the manner that Christoff did, as the sport of stick fighting is well ingrained in Zulu culture. Forget Churchill, Patton, Napoleon, or even Storming Norman but the greatest military genius was none of these, it was a Zulu named Shaka. He was able to mastermind the tactics that resulted in the biggest defeat of the British Army ever in a single skirmish. And this was achieved using inferior technology. It happened in the same area I grew up as a kid in Kwazulu-Natal.It occurred at the Battle of Isandlwana shortly before the First Anglo Boer War. A force of British soldiers armed with the best weaponry at the time, were overwhelmed by a more skilled opposing Zulu force that was armed only with primitive weapons called Assegai, which are iron spears. These Assegai were combined with a highly skilled and mobile fighting formation known as the Buffalo horns which was devised by Shaka. This would be assimilated some sixty years later during the Second World War by the Germans for a type of more modern mobile warfare known as Blitzkrieg while my dad was at High School.
Ironically, instead of learning from the loss, the British covered it up by subsequently awarding a disproportionate number of battle honours to an insignificant action the next day at Rorke’s Drift. This stubbornness resulted in large scale methods of entrenched warfare continuing to be used including during the First World War. These methods were eventually reversed due to the enforced circumstances of the Second World War and its emphasis on mobility, which the British should have realized from Shaka’s methods, if they had paid any attention and not been blinded by arrogance.
The British were armed with the state-of-the-art Martini-Henry breech-loading rifle as well as two seven pounder mountain guns deployed as field guns and a rocket battery. The Zulus as mentioned were equipped mainly with the traditional assegai iron spears and Nguni cow-hide shields
The Zulus tactics, known as the “buffalo horns” formation (impondo zenkomo in the Zulu language). It comprised three elements. The horns which encircled and pin down the enemy and were made up of younger, greener troops. The chest which delivered the coup de grace where prime fighters composed the main force. And the loins which were used to exploit success or reinforce elsewhere, and these were often the older veterans who were positioned with their backs to the battle so as not to get unduly excited until required.
As a young boy I would visit with my family our Bruyns cousins on my
maternal side at their farm just south of Dundee. The farm overlooked
the battlefield. The outline of that hill where the battle occurred is
etched in my memory as my dad pointed it out. Shaka did not lead the
battle at that hill. He had long since been assassinated by his brother
Dingaan, but he was a formidable leader and his tactics and philosophies
lived on in the following generations of Zulu armies. The legacy of
Shaka also lives on in South Africa who are a hardened and abrasive
nation.Also prone to corruption and the inventors of something known as state capture.
The Bruyns family had been part of the Gert Maritz trek party that had migrated from the Cape to Natal. They had encamped at present day Pietermaritzburg. Another leader of a trek party that had also arrived in Natal was Piet Retief. Retief decided to do a deal for land with Dingaan, the notorious Zulu leader who had assassinated his brother Shaka. Maritz was reluctant having been told that Dingaan would use the opportunity of a meeting to double cross the Boers. Maritz declined and Retief set off for Dingaan’s kraal without Maritz but not before riding past his tent and insulting him by calling him a coward. Retief met his fate by being killed in Dingaan’s kraal.
At that stage elsewhere in the world in the Americas the native population was being subjected in genocide and in Southern Africa Dingaan’s actions resulted in a Battle known as Bloedrivier that would provide the Boers a foothold in the province. Ironically, the differences between Maritz and Retief was a common Boer characteristic. They would never have common purpose or agreement and always have various splinter groups. The organization that my maternal grandfather JT Elliot belonged to was known as the Saamwerk Kommitee and had as its primary purpose to unite the Boers into a greater and more united Afrikaner grouping.
The reasons Christof became a pastor was related to his feelings of being remorseful of his conduct while in the Hanoverian army. The army had often massacred rebellious adversaries with Christof running them through using his lance. He was influenced in his decision to become a missionary because he attended a revival service close to his home town of Zahrensen addressed by the leader of the Hermannsburg Mission, a Louis (also known as Ludwig) Harms. He felt he needed to repent for lancing those opponents. Today we would know it as post traumatic stress disorder, but in those days, he related it to a calling by God to atone.
Because he was a Hanoverian officer, Christof would maintain loyalty to the House of Sax-Coburg and Gotha, which would later become the House of Windsor in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. He was brought up for court martial before the Governor General of Natal for showing disloyalty to the Crown during the Anglo-Boer war. His crime was that of preaching against war, accusing both sides of being at fault. The Governor General summarily dismissed the charges when Christof told him he was perturbed at the charges as he prayed for the welfare and health of the Regent every Sunday in Church.
The rotten apples of Lilienthal
His descendants would live around Dalton and attend the Lilienthal Church. During the World Wars, their English neighbours would stand surety for them. Mostly because the government did not trust the immigrants who came from the territories of the German enemy. My grandfather Ludwig Bartels, named after the founder of the Hermannsberg Mission Society) had a retired Colonel of the Natal Carbineers as a neighbour who drove over to intervene when the local police paid a visit to question the family’s loyalties.
Post-war the major event was the cult that was started by the pastor of Lilienthal, the notorious scoundrel, Anton Engelbrecht. Engelbrecht was a Lutheran pastor at Lilienthal Church. The church is located close to Dalton, a little backwater in the Kwazulu-Natal Midlands, north of the town of Pietermaritzburg. My dad and his family were members of the church. Engelbrecht started moving outside the boundaries of the fundamental philosophies of the Lutherans, which is mentioned later in this story. This caused conflict with his congregation and Engelbrecht was excommunicated from the Lutheran Synod, and together with another dubious character, Erlo Stegen, started a sect known as Bible House that was based at Claridge close to Pietermaritzburg. Stegen was my paternal grandmother’s nephew. He was a rotten apple just like his mentor Engelbrecht.
My dad, a young man just out of High School refused to leave the Lilienthal church even though his family applied emotional blackmail against him to join the cult. Engelbrecht based his cult on prayer sessions, that were eventually exposed as nothing more than sexual shenanigans behind closed doors. All performed under the ruse of religion. Twenty years after it started Engelbrecht's little façade crumbled deservedly around his ears. But his protégé, Stegen, then created the offshoot known as Kasizabantu, based on the same principles that exists to this day. Stegen had similar acts of religious based deviant sexual behaviour known as prayer sessions with acquaintances known as the Mamas. One of their number's husband even committed suicide after being intimidated by Stegen while another's was paid a dowry. Perversely, sex was taboo to members of the cult who were ordered and pushed into a regime of pious exploitation. The cults of Engelbrecht and Stegen have destroyed many lives, including some of my own family. My aunt, Enid, was a beautiful woman. She joined Volkskas, nowadays known as ABSA, as an accountant, being one of the first females in this position in Kwazulu-Natal. She became engaged to a young man who truly loved her, and then her world turned insane. She was raped by Engelbrecht. Instead of following the normal course of justice, these maniacs within the cult supposedly prayed to God and concluded to suppress the crime. My dad was given the nasty task of having to meet the fiancée of my aunt and return the ring, "because that is what the Lord wanted!" The young man pleaded with my dad, saying no matter what has happened, he would still want Enid as his wife. My father's efforts to reconcile the pair were met by a brick wall. He cried when he related the story to me, one evening during the last years of his life, his body racked by Parkinson’s.
Around the time of this incident Enid went to Pretoria. The duration of time spend there was sufficient for a child to have been born. Notable it was In Pretoria where Engelbrecht had a bible study school that he had established. Amongst the older German community resident in Dalton after the Second World War it was common knowledge that Engelbrecht's violation of my aunt lead to the birth of a child.
I can only imagine the insanity faced by my aunt, abandoned by the Christians whose God was meant to be kind and generous. Yet, sickeningly, the cult always blamed the woman and exonerated the men. Enid died a spinster with a lifelong addition to sleeping pills and drinking Castle Stout. When mine and Kath's boys were born and we went to visit her, and she said to me they were like her own grandchildren, and at the moment I walked outside and shed a tear, just like my dad at a life that could have been so different if people hadn't falsely made God's decisions for him. My dad often told me that the cult viewed prayer as making a phone call to God. However, he added, you do not know who would answer that call, as it could be God or Satan. Satan answered the calls of the cult was my dad's implication.
The cowshed myth
Stegen used knowledge of Enid’s rape and the sexual prayer orgies as leverage over Engelbrecht to initiate a palace coup at Bible House. Shortly after my own birth, he established Kwasizabantu Mission assimilating the assets and followers of Bible House. The key protagonist in that transaction was my uncle, Hogart Joosten, who was the treasurer. As a result the Joostens became Kwasizabantu royalty. Stegen wiped out the unpleasant history and legacy of Bible House by concocting a story about a revival in a cow shed. The story was nothing more than a regurgitation of an event described by JC de Vries that happened near Worcester the year before Christof Bartels arrived at Port Natal on the Kandaze. This was part of a Christian revival in South Africa at the time in which Andrew Murray played a prominent part. The Kwasizabantu narrative is this (something Stegen read in Afrikaans and translated to Zulu): When God comes down
The original revival as referenced from Andrew Murray:
Engelbrecht would retreat from his preaching and evangelizing and would marry one of the women with whom he had an affair, under the guise of Bible House prayer sessions. She was Leni, my dad’s brother, Heinz’s wife mom. A complicated web of abnormal relationships. My dad hired a manager on his farm, Oakvilla near New Hanover, and I had a good relationship with this man known as Lourenz. He once told me it was him who triggered the collapse of the cult at Claridge as he discovered the sexual relationship between Engelbrecht and Leni by walking in on them during a so-called prayer session.
The abuse at the Mission continued and Enid’s sister Inge together with her husband Hogart Joosten, who was the treasurer at Bible House, formed the initial leadership backbone of Kwasizabantu, which was later assimilated by their son Dietmar who is the current farm manager. The other leaders at the Mission which came to prominence after Stegen became deposed due to increasing dementia was his daughters and Lidia Dube, a daughter of one of the Mamas. The Joosten’s other son who is my cousin André Joosten is an alleged rapist associated with various abuses at the Mission including assault. During the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mission was exposed in a set of news articles published by News24, a prominent mainstream news organization, which triggered numerous criminal and other investigations.
Several of my cousins as mentioned were deeply entrenched in the machinations of the cult and lived lives that were often like those of the Mennonites. The women wore drab clothing and no makeup and strangely wrote to us asking for forgiveness for incidents of insignificant misdemeanor or fun. Like when we attempted to peep into the bathroom window when my sister and her friend were bathing. The windows were frosted, and we saw zilch. However, one of my cousins held the ladder for my brother and me. We received multiple letters about this prank that had been subsequently portrayed as a sin. The cult members would be intimidated into seeking repentance for incidents that were superficial but would overlook gross human rights abuses. As my dad would say, they picked at the bones and missed seeing the skeleton.
The Engelbrecht and Stegen cults condoned sexual and physical violence based on perverse reasoning. The main doctrine of the cults was that followers need to continuously repent after which the deeds and crimes would be swept under the carpet. This created a toxic environment whereby cycles of abuse became ingrained into the workings of the cults including the Mission based outside of Kranskop. To strangers these monsters disguised themselves as calm, meek and humble humans. Ironically this form of repentance was the trigger that made Luther nail his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenburg that was the forerunner to the Protestant Revolution.
Fundamentally the ultimate flaw in these cult Christians was the ingrained habit of shunning. Any disagreement or opposition to Stegen was met with the non-Christian behaviour of turning their backs on the disagreeing party. Every family that is involved in the cult of Kwasizabantu has been affected with members becoming alienated from each other with my family being a prime example.
My brother in law John Hendry married the daughter of one of the Bible House followers, Dr Justin Mitchell. She was unhinged, and as with most followers in the cult of Engelbrecht was most probably abused which affected her interactions later in life. John’s marriage would dissolve as a result.
One of the other times I saw my dad cry was when he described the life of his hero to me, Albert Schweitzer. I can understand why Schweitzer was my dad's hero as not only was he awarded the Nobel prize during the year the Bible House cult was established, but he was also a humanitarian, theologian, doctor and one of the best musicians of his time. He was the antithesis of an Anton Engelbrecht and Erlo Stegen as he was a man who lead by his actions. Schweitzer and Engelbrecht stood in contrast to each other at a similar point in time. They never practices what they preached.
Cult leaders are emotional pop stars whose primary interest is their own enjoyment and wealth. They sweep up their adherents to follow a polluted road of self-indulgence. I have encountered these cult-like leaders in life whether it be in present day business, politics, religion, sport or even entertainment. They call themselves South African and often state they are Christians. I am not that type of Christian. Pious and compassionate people don't need words to identify themselves as their actions speak for themselves.