A court has heard how a teenage boy in South Afica died from severe and substantial injuries sustained while attending a camp which has been linked to “gay conversion”, after allegedly being beaten, starved, and forced to eat his own faeces.
Three teenagers in South Africa are known to have died after attending the camp which claims to help “make men” out of teenage boys. One was told that he “wasn’t gay”, and that the camp would “make a man” out of him.
The three-month training course is run by Alex de Koker’s Echo Wild Game Rangers. At two months into the course, one teenager was admitted to hospital with severe injuries, which he died from two weeks later.
The course, which costs R22,000 (£1,500), and its managers have been linked by several reports to “gay conversion therapy”, and its victims have been said to have been “perceived as gay and clearly effeminate”.
Raymond Buys, the most recent to die after attending the course, died after two weeks in hospital on a life support machine.
He had brain damage, a broken arm, severe dehydration, and cigarette burns all over his body. His mother was told his chances of survival were “virtually zero”.
“I sent my son on this course to make him a better man, to give him a better future,” Wilma Buys said, speaking to The Daily Telegraph. “I trusted Alex de Koker with his life.”
She said her son had been diagnosed with Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder, and that he had struggled at school. The course was recommended by a friend, and when she approached de Koker, he said he could help Raymond find a job in the Wildlife trade.
He started the course on 12 January, 2011, and over two months, she only spoke to him three times, but was told by de Koker that he had begun self harming.
“Raymond was only allowed to speak to me on speakerphone,” she said. “When I asked him why he was hurting himself, he told me ‘Mum, I’m not doing it to myself’.”
On 23 March, Mrs Buys received a phone call from de Koker to say that her son had been admitted to hospital for tests, but when she arrived, she found that he was in critical condition.
During the trial this week, a boy who shared a tent with Mr Buys spoke of manual labour they were expected to undertake, such as cutting grass with machetes and stacking stones to build a dam.
Gerhard Oosthuizen, 19, described that Mr Buys was chained to his bed when he tried to escape, and was not allowed to use the bathroom until he soiled himself repeatedly.
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The Beeld newspaper reports that he was on one occasion forced to eat his own faeces when he went to the toilet in a field where the recruits were working.
On another, he was forced to eat washing powder, after tipping over a container of it, and he vomited foam. He also spoke of Mr Buys being beaten with sticks, plastic pipes and planks, when he did not work.
Mr Oosthuizen also reportedly said he saw Mr Buys in a hut with a pillow case over his head, being shocked with a stun-gun by the defendants.
De Koker, 49, and an employee of the camp, Michael Erasmus, 20, are now both on trial for charges of murder, child abuse and neglect, as well as two cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, in response to Mr Buys’ death.
Back in 2007, Erich Calitz, a 25-year-old died from severe brain injuries, reports Rapport, an Afrikaans newspaper, and 19-year-old Nicholas van der Walt died after attending the same camp in Swartruggens in the Northwest province.
The sister of Mr Calitz, Mathilda Goenwald, said in an interview with the Johannesburg Star, that her brother had slight brain damage, and had struggled to hold down jobs, but that he was beaten when he asked if he could leave the camp, and that “Alex told him that he wasn’t gay and he would make a man out of him”.
De Koker faced a suspended prison sentence in 2009, following the death of Mr Calitz, but did not face criminal charges for the death of Mr van der Walt.
Alex de Koker is also reportedly a member of the Iron Guards movement, founded by murdered white supremacist Eugene Terreblanch.
Both de Koker and Erasmus have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The case continues.