Four years ago, Alex de Koker, a South African proprietor of a farm he used as a “ranger training” camp, stood trial for the deaths of two youths who’d been in his care. De Koker, associated with a nominally Christian “white power” group long led by the notorious Eugene Terre’Blanche, seemed to be especially interested in turning “effeminate-looking” boys into men. It didn’t end well for these two:
Eric Calitz, 18, and Nicolaas van der Walt, 19, had both died after being enrolled at the Echo Wild Game Rangers camp, held on a farm near Vereeniging [South Africa]. Calitz’s family were initially informed of his death via SMS, and told that their son had died of a heart attack. Subsequently, the cause of death was changed to a seizure, and later, to dehydration. It was eventually revealed that Calitz had died from bleeding on the brain. Van der Walt, meanwhile, appeared to have been choked with a seatbelt.
De Koker emerged more or less victorious from the judicial proceedings: He received only a suspended sentence in Calitz’s death, and was not charged in Van der Walt’s demise, which was ruled to have been the result of a heart attack.
Now de Koker is back in court, made to answer for the 2011 death of another camper, 15-year-old Raymond Buys. This is what Buys looked like after 10 weeks at game rangers camp.
Buys lay in intensive care for four weeks before he died. The teen’s parents had signed Buys up for the three-month Echo Wild Game Rangers training course in perfect health. When he was admitted to hospital 10 weeks later, he was semi-conscious and convulsing, with his arm broken in two places. There were burns and wounds all over his body. Buys was severely malnourished and dehydrated, and a medical report predicted that his chances of recovery were “virtually zero”.
What were his last months on earth like for Raymond Buys? His former tentmate Gerhard Oosthuizen, 19, testified that the 15-year-old was chained to his bed night after night. Buys was refused permission to visit the bathroom, and was forced to eat his own feces.
On one occasion, recalled Oosthuizen, after Raymond knocked over a container of detergent, he was made to ingest what he had spilled, and began vomiting foam.
Oosthuizen also testified, sobbing, that he saw de Koker and an employee, Michael Erasmus, electroshock Buys, who was naked and tied to a chair, his head covered in a pillowcase.
De Koker and Erasmus have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, child abuse and neglect, failure to provide adequate clothing, food, housing or assistance, and assault. The trial continues.