WATCH | Police reopen case against ex-St Andrew’s coach accused of sexual grooming

  • The police have reopened a sexual grooming case against former St Andrews water polo coach David Mackenzie. 
  • An independent review found Mackenzie "was grooming boys" at the elite Eastern Cape school.
  • In an operation nicknamed Nemo, the police are also investigating alleged sexual crimes in seven schools around the country.

The police have reopened a sexual grooming case against former St Andrews water polo coach David Mackenzie. 

An independent review board had found the evidence presented "demonstrated, quite unequivocally, that Mackenzie was grooming boys", while employed at the prestigious all-boys' school.

The claims against Mackenzie came after the death of 16-year-old Thomas Kruger who was found hanged at the school's sanatorium on 18 November 2018.

McKenzie denied the allegations during a live investigation into Thomas' death by News24 and My Only Story - which investigated alleged sexual abuse in schools - last year.

The podcast series revealed extensive details of McKenzie's questionable interaction with Thomas and other pupils at St Andrew's

His parents, Charl and Elizabeth, and brother, James, are suing St Andrew's College in Makhanda, Mackenzie, former principal Alan Thompson, the St Andrew's College Council, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Eastern Cape education MEC, and SA Council for Educators.

AS IT HAPPENED | Police re-open case against ex-St Andrew’s coach accused of sexual grooming

Thompson left St Andrew's when the findings of the review were finalised after it was found he had failed to deal effectively with complaints raised by parents against Mackenzie.

Thompson has since been employed by another prestigious school in the Eastern Cape, Dale College Boys' High School in Qonce.

The case has been reopened as part of the police and Women and Men Against Child Abuse launching investigations into alleged widespread sexual abuse of pupils involved in elite sports. 

The operation, nicknamed Operation Nemo, was announced on Thursday. 

The police's Colonel Heila Niemand of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit said: "We are seeing it in a very serious light. These boys have left school already - they are grown men already. It takes time for me to convince them and make them realise the importance to speak to me."

Niemand added another case they were looking into was that of Dean Carelse.

The water polo coach was deported from Australia after being found guilty of child abuse, possession of child porn, and grooming. He was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended after six months for three years. 

The investigations will include Reddam schools in Johannesburg and Cape Town; Grey College in Bloemfontein; Grey High and Pearson High in Gqeberha; St Andrew's College and DSG in Makhanda; and Westville Boys' High in Durban.

Niemand declined to say how many teachers were being investigated but said they believed there was an organised crime ring. 

She added it was unclear whether the group used the children for pornographic material.

Niemand said they knew the teachers had WhatsApp groups where they discussed how to groom children.

"They will talk about how they managed to groom a child and give each other tips." 

Miranda Jordan of Women and Men Against Child Abuse said the investigation would help dispel the myth children in private schools did not get abused.

"The schools we are going to refer to are seen as the bastion of tradition and education. It is within the hallowed halls of tradition that we need to realise that all children are vulnerable to abuse."

The founder of podcast My Only Story, Deon Wiggett, said it was a long way before all the abused pupils got justice.

"There is a huge number of people involved that we can't identify yet. I am pleased that, as activists, we can try and get justice for hundreds of boys who were abused by water polo coaches." 

Mackenzie's lawyer, Danie Gouws, said they only found out on Thursday the case had been reopened.

"There is no case against my client," he added. 

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