Vories prefects ‘confessed’

2014-06-11 00:00

VOORTREKKER High School prefects accused of orchestrating a sadistic initiation ritual made confessions to the school’s principal two weeks ago.

The Witness does not know the details of the confessions, whose existence came to light during the first sitting of an internal disciplinary tribunal into the initiation rituals yesterday.

A former pupil, who was removed from the school when his parents found evidence of third-degree burns from a steam iron on his body, lifted the lid on the initiation practice.

According to a source close to the tribunal, an attorney acting for the prefects revealed that his clients had come clean to Voortrekker principal Jan Nel.

Witnesses will be called to testify in the hearing when it is next convened in August, after arguments yesterday are understood to have centred on the legitimacy of the tribunal.

The source added that the attorney representing the prefects had argued that an initial meeting with Nel, when the confessions were made, should constitute the formal tribunal and a temporary suspension imposed then should be binding as punishment.

The Witness had applied to be party to the hearing, but was denied access by the school’s governing body.

In an exclusive interview with The Witness, the mother of the boy, who along with her son cannot be named because of the sexual nature of some of the allegations against the prefects, maintained that she would continue to pursue criminal charges against the three and was exploring options of a civil claim with her legal team.

“I want this to serve as an example for anyone who even contemplates staging this kind of initiation. I know this is just the beginning, but we are not going to let up.

“I am happy with the way things were conducted today [yesterday]. To me, it looked as if the prosecutors from the governing body gave the perpetrators no leeway.”

She said that strong evidence had been stacked against the senior prefects.

“What I took from the sitting is that lots of people had come forward and by my estimation, it will be dark days for the boys that did this.

“I am happy that the school appears to be taking a strong stance. Nevertheless, we will continue to pursue criminal charges against the prefects. In terms of the internal hearing, I know justice will be done,” she added.

The Voortrekker administration, which has come under fire for its handling of the scandal, had insisted that the probe would not be influenced by investigations spearheaded by the police and the Education Department.

The bizarre initiation ritual came to light when the boy’s mother noticed a severe burn wound on his buttocks, understood to have been inflicted by prefects using a steam iron.

The trauma of the teen’s ordeal peaked when he was branded, but was characterised as a three-month spate of physical and emotional trauma.

Governing body vice-chairperson Marius du Plessis confirmed that the hearing, involving all of the accused, had proceeded yesterday.

“The disciplinary hearing of the pupils who have taken part in the alleged practices at the Jan Stander hostel at VHS is taking place today [yesterday]. All parties are well represented and the case has been going on since 9 am, but has not adjourned as yet.”

Du Plessis said he was confident that a solution would be reached.

“I am sure an amiable solution, while respecting the rights of all concerned, will be found. As per the Schools Act and depending on the outcome, I will inform either the Department of Education if expulsion from the school is recommended. For any other finding, the interested and affected parties will be notified and the sanctions decided upon.

“It is of utmost importance to the SGB that the pupils in question are given the best possible opportunity to complete their exams to the best of their abilities. I am confident that the tribunal, led by experienced legal professionals, will do everything in their power to ensure that the truth will prevail so that incidents like this will not occur again in future. … I haven’t heard anything from the tribunal as the meeting is held in camera,” Du Plessis said.

Asked later to comment on whether it was disclosed that the accused confessed to the principal, Du Plessis responded that he had not yet received feedback and was waiting to be briefed today by the chairman of the tribunal.

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za


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