Fightback on torture

2014-06-03 00:00

THE police will today launch an investigation into allegations of torture and abuse at Voortrekker High School’s boarding establishment after revelations by a former pupil.

Matthew Opperman, who was allegedly beaten and branded over a three-month period during an initiation ritual at the prestigious Pietermaritzburg school, has given a statement to police.

Weekend Witness on Saturday revealed the alleged abuse after Matthew’s mother Theresa Charlton confirmed she discovered evidence of sadistic acts of assault that included a third-degree burn from a steam iron that went untreated for two weeks.

Yesterday, Charlton registered a case of assault with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm with Pietermaritzburg police.

Charlton has also defended herself and her son in an open letter, after denigrating comments were posted on social media sites.

Other charges, including sexual assault and the production and possession of child pornography, may be added later as Matthew claimed that that he and others were repeatedly stripped naked and photographed.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has also assembled a team to probe the allegations, set to descend on the school today.

Voortrekker High School principal Jan Nel said that the school’s governing body would chair an independent probe without any outside interference, a statement the department strongly countered.

Repeated attempts to contact him again yesterday proved unsuccessful at the time of going to press.

As the independent investigations begin, The Witness can reveal more alleged instances of abuse and torture during initiations have surfaced.

Charlton said that she was hopeful that justice would prevail.

“We remain ever hopeful and after opening this case today I am resolute that this is a step in the right direction. Justice should be served.

“I hope that the laying of charges inspires more parents and children to come forward. I think the success of that will be determined by how my process with the police and the school plays out. If victims have faith in the system then why would they not speak out?” Charlton questioned.

She insisted that the school had attempted to whitewash the incident and protect the staff and pupils involved.

“I always thought that their promise to investigate and suspend the perpetrators was empty and that is why I have decided to take the next step,” she said.

Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said that the investigation team would start their probe in earnest.

“The head of department has appointed a team led by the chief district manager to look into the allegations that we view in a very serious light. He will meet with his team today and then approach the school after they iron out the terms of reference,” he said.

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naic­ker confirmed that a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm had been opened at the Townhill police station.


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