New claims against school

2014-06-07 00:00

NEW, detailed claims have emerged in the initiation saga at Voortrekker High School ahead of an internal “disciplinary tribunal” to be held next week.

A former pupil, who claims he was assaulted over a three-month period during an initiation ritual practised at the school’s boarding establishment, blew the whistle on the scandal last week and claimed he was branded with a hot iron during the ritual.

Photographic evidence of the branding was produced and published by Weekend Witness.

Now fresh details have emerged in a statement given to police — and obtained by Weekend Witness — by the boy at the centre of the controversy.

Weekend Witness is not naming the teenager now as sexual assault charges could be added to the charges being investigated by the police.

Last week’s whistleblower is expected to appear at the tribunal, a process that the prestigious school in Pietermaritzburg maintains will not be open to interference by police or Education Department officials.

A group of senior prefects are accused of orchestrating an alleged spate of abuse, which culminated in the boy being branded with a steam iron.

New details of what is alleged to have gone on behind closed doors could add charges of sexual assault and the sexual grooming of a minor to the serious assault charges police have already begun investigating.

In his statement, the boy claims he was forced to observe pornographic images after being stripped naked.

“However, on Monday, 12 May the matrics made us stand in the waskamer [bathroom] in our underwear. From there we were blindfolded, and pushed against walls and taken into a room individually.

“We had to take off our underwear, as well as the blindfold. We were made to stand in front of a laptop with a naked woman on the screen. We had to touch her private parts on the screen while [name withheld] said what he referred to as an oath and we had to repeat.

“Your own matric would put the blindfold back and push you against the wall and take you back to the end of the passage. After everyone has been to the room and back they would run with us and throw us into the walls and onto the floor. They pushed me into one of my friends, my head connecting with him. This caused my nose to bleed,” the statement reads.

“They took me into the bathroom where I got spear tackled in the ribs. I couldn’t breathe and told them, but [name withheld] told me that if I can still talk, then I can breathe and he then carried on throwing me around the bathroom into corners.

“Then they pinned me down onto the floor. Because I was blindfolded, I couldn’t see who it was. While they pinned me down, [name withheld] pulled my pants down and then I felt hot steam on my bottom. Suddenly I felt the actual iron, whereafter I screamed. They took the blindfold off and let me go,” he wrote.

Other aspects of the initiation ritual included:

- Grade 8 boys suffered daily beatings at the hands of matric boys, often with implements like pipes or belts;

- They were forced to take part in the “Volstruis”, during which they were stripped of their clothes and forced to run down a passage while they were struck by older boys;

- Boys were made to take off their clothes while their seniors took photographs of them;

- Boys were made to drink volumes of warm water and vinegar before intensive physical training;

Pupils were made to beg for money, which was handed to their designated mentor, and if they failed to meet their quota, they were badly beaten.

The school’s governing body has refused to comment and this week threatened The Witness with legal action after our reports.

“The School Governing Body is not prepared to comment on this matter any further. We are under no obligation to respond to you. As indicated yesterday, we have taken all the legal and necessary steps to ensure that the truth will surface in due course and will report the findings to the Department of Education when the disciplinary hearings are finalised,” it said.

“Your constant harassment is unnecessary and sensationalist. We will no longer simply stand by and see our school’s good name tarnished by bias and uninformed reporting. We will now seek legal counsel to protect the school and its pupils from further damaging remarks.”

Muzi Mahlambi, spokesperson for the Education Department, said they had commenced their own investigation into the allegations at the school and had been briefing the department head, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi.

He declined to give further information on their findings thus far.

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