St Andrew's College sets date, terms of reference for review of complaints against ex-water polo coach

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Former water polo coach David Mackenzie.
Former water polo coach David Mackenzie.
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  • St Andrew's College says a report from the review board will be presented to council in January.
  • The process will run for two weeks, from 8 November.
  • Current and former pupils, parents and staff members will be allowed to make presentations; no anonymous complaints will be accepted. 

St Andrew's College (SAC) in Makhanda has finalised its terms of reference for the review board which will investigate allegations against its former water polo coach David Mackenzie.

The review board would also analyse how complaints against Mackenzie were handled when they were brought to the school management's attention between 2017 and 2018.

According to SAC council chairperson Jacko Maree, the review would start its work on 8 November. The process was due to run for two weeks, and a report expected to be tabled with the school next year.

The review process, to be chaired by retired judge Dayalin Chetty, would inquire and make findings about the conduct of Mackenzie, senior staff members, and headmaster Alan Thompson during Mackenzie's tenure at the school. The board would also make recommendations.

Mackenzie was fired from his most recent employer, Reddam House Bedfordview, three weeks ago.

He was found guilty of gross dishonesty and misrepresentation about his past. 

READ | Another water polo coach suspended at top school amid News24/My Only Story investigation

Mackenzie was a deputy housemaster at Espin House, one of the six boarding houses at St Andrew's College. He resigned abruptly in June 2018 after he was informed he would be facing a disciplinary hearing after he allegedly went against the school's policies and signed out a pupil from the sanatorium. 

The boy, who lived at another hostel, Armstrong House, was found at Espin, where Mackenzie had a flat. 

Another staffer found messages of an intimate nature between Mackenzie and the pupil, which News24 has seen.

The claims against Mackenzie are detailed in My Only Story: Back to School, a six-part investigative podcast series looking at the death of 16-year-old Thomas Kruger. The investigation had also revealed claims that the coach had inappropriate interactions with pupils at the prestigious Eastern Cape school.

The podcast series is a co-production by My Only Story and News24.

Mackenzie declined to answer questions from News24 throughout the live investigation. 

Last month, he approached the Port Elizabeth High Court in an attempt to bar the podcast from airing. He later withdrew the urgent application. 

What you need to know about the hearings

The review board hearings would be held in the Kannemeyer council chambers at SAC. 

Virtual platforms would also be made available for witnesses unable to be physically present.

Current and former pupils, parents, and staff members would be allowed to submit complaints. 

According to Maree, the review board would inquire, make findings and recommendations, and look into revelations from the live investigation over the past five weeks. 

READ | Retired judge to lead review of evidence against embattled ex-St Andrew's College water polo coach

Chetty, as chairperson, would work with other members, which included seasoned retired teachers. 

Mike van der Veen would be the independent attorney acting as the board's administrator. 

Maree said all information presented to the board would be treated with confidentiality. All complaints should be sent to the administrator outlining relevant information to it. 

The board's administrator would then decide if the complaint fell within the terms of reference and submit them to the board.

No anonymous complaints

According to the council's chairperson, a complaint of serious concern should be made in writing, formatted in numbered paragraphs. The complaints should contain facts and supporting evidence if any.

Chetty would have the final say on whether a submitted complaint would be admitted or not.

No anonymous complaints would be accepted.

"However, all submissions will be subject to attorney-client privilege and any witnesses before the review board can request to present their evidence anonymously. The final report and recommendations of the review board will also not identify any witness who has requested to remain anonymous," Maree said.

The board would also report how incidents relating to sexual abuse, grooming, bullying, violence and substance abuse were managed from January 2015.

It would also report whether Maree reacted appropriately to the complaints he previously received about Mackenzie and whether the council's legal affairs member reacted appropriately around the circumstances that saw Mackenzie resigning from SAC.

What will happen once the review process concludes? 

The board would have to present its report to the school's council in January 2022.

Maree said the council would then determine which portions of the board's findings and recommendations would be made public and which findings and recommendations would be implemented.

"While there has been no evidence of a reportable offence or sexual misconduct in relation to David Mackenzie's tenure at St Andrew's College presented by News24 (or anyone else) to date, we are all deeply concerned by the revelations and [the] emerging picture presented by the ongoing News24/My Only Story series," he said.

He added that the council was confident that the review board would thoroughly investigate the relevant allegations and complaints.

ALSO READ | Inside embattled water polo coach David Mackenzie's iPhone messages to schoolboys, colleagues

Two weeks ago, News24 and My Only Story uncovered a consistent pattern of inappropriate behaviour by Mackenzie through more than 80 000 WhatsApp messages sent by him to scores of schoolboys he coached, fellow teachers, coaches, and pupils' parents at SAC.

The tens of thousands of WhatsApp messages analysed by News24 contained no child pornography, but scores of examples of grooming, as outlined by child protection expert and head of advocacy at Women and Men Against Child Abuse Luke Lamprecht. 

There were also several photographs of shirtless boys drinking or smoking what appeared to be dagga and, in one instance, a clearly naked boy from the waist down.

The messages also revealed that Mackenzie maintained regular contact with a group of boys from SAC nine months after he resigned from the school ahead of his disciplinary hearing. 

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