Ex-choirmaster gets 30 years

2009-01-20 23:12

Johannesburg - Apart from the fact that he was the choirmaster of the renowned Drakensberg Boys' Choir for three years and also gave music lessons at the school, it was Dr Paul Potgieter's task at the time to make the new boys feel welcome and integrate them into the school.

On Tuesday, Potgieter, 43, who ran the Green Hills music school in Randfontein on the West Rand in 2003, pleaded guilty in the Protea Regional Court in Soweto. He was found guilty on 44 charges, including sexual offences against underage male pupils.

Potgieter, a versatile musician and a talented player of the flute and pan flute, was sentenced to 30 years in prison, of which he has to serve 10.

In 2004 he obtained his doctorate in music at the University of Pretoria. In November 2006 he released a pan flute CD, Somerkersfees en ander Kersliedere (Summer Christmas and other carols), with an organist.

As he was being sentenced, the father of two small children stood with his hands behind his back.

In mitigation it was said on Tuesday that his wife was divorcing him when she heard about his misdemeanours.

He committed the offences between 1999 and 2007 and stood trial on 20 charges of the production of child pornography, 21 of indecent assault, two of crimen injuria and one of assault.

The offences were committed in the Winterton and Bergville areas, as well as in Rustenburg and Randfontein.

According to the indictment, Potgieter had been " in a position of power as a teacher at the Drakensberg Boys' Choir and as a music teacher in Randfontein", where he "specifically targeted vulnerable and maladjusted victims".

The tradition at the Drakensberg Boys' Choir was to isolate the new boys from their parents for six weeks to facilitate the adjustment to their new environment.

"The accused won the confidence of the new boys and acted as their friend and confidant. This made it easier for him to abuse the complainants," the state argued.

He created opportunities to abuse the pupils and "carefully planned" these by arranging overnight trips and making sure he was alone with the boys.

It was part of the accused's grooming to introduce the boys to alcohol, the state argued.

Initially he only produced, owned and collected child pornography, but over time his acts against children expanded to contact abuse, including inappropriate touching, masturbation and oral sex.

His victims were all between nine and 19 years old.