Prefects: Initiation 'in boy's best interests'

Jeff Wicks, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - Prefects at a leading KwaZulu-Natal school who “tortured” a 14-year-old boy in an initiation ritual claim to have “acted in his best interests”.

The revelation was contained in a letter of apology to the former pupil, understood to have been penned by his attackers from Voortrekker High School in Pietermaritzburg, which The Witness has obtained.

The teen was removed from the school when his parents found evidence of third-degree burns from a steam iron on his body.

His traumatic ordeal peaked when he was branded with the iron, but was preceded by a three-month spate of physical and emotional abuse, the victim and his mother charge.

'Grotesque traditions'

The letter was signed by four matric boys who were implicated in the abuse scandal which rocked the Pietermaritzburg school fraternity.

Other initiation rituals included daily beatings, a “Volstruis”, during which they were stripped of their clothes and forced to run down a passage while they were struck by older boys, and boys being stripped while their seniors took photographs of them.

In the letter, the boys described the entrenched initiation as “grotesque”.

“We would like to formally apologise to you for the trauma we have caused you and your family through the grotesque traditions we encouraged you to take part in during you time at Voortrekker High School.”

“We trust that with the emotional strength that you possess you will, in time, be able to overcome the trauma that we have caused,” they wrote.

The boys, who also face criminal prosecution, said that the fallout had made them realise that their actions have consequences.

“Through the events that have taken place over the last two months we have realised the magnitude of the effect that our actions have had on the people around us. We have come to understand, with your assistance, that all our actions have a far greater influence on everything and everyone around us than what we could ever have imagined,” the letter reads.

'Goal of shaping you'

The boys added that they thought the initiation would prepare the boys for later life.

“We would like to reassure you the ultimate result of our actions was not our intention. We believed that we were acting in your best interests, with the goal of shaping and preparing you for the rest of your years through high school.

“We unfortunately did not foresee these events causing such a negative deviation from the path that you had already chosen to follow,” they said.

“Fortunately we can now grow to strive and aspire to be proud individuals through the countless lessons we have learnt. We hope that you can find it in your heart and grace to accept our deepest apologies,” the letter reads.

The Witness reported on Wednesday that attorneys acting for the boy’s family have issued letters of demand calling for damages amounting to over R2.5m.