News » Crime

S. African Teen Dies After Alleged Torture at ’Gay Conversion’ Camp

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday April 30, 2013

A 15-year-old teen from South Africa died after he was allegedly chained to his bed, starved, beaten at a training camp that claimed could turn him into a "man," the British national daily Tthe Telegraph reports.

Raymond Buys, who had developmental issues, was placed in the hospital and put on life support two months after he entered a three-month training program at Echo Wild Game Rangers in the bush, about an hour south of the South African capital of Johannesburg.

Buys was severely emaciated and dehydrated and suffered from brain damage, a broken arm, bruises and cigarette burns all over his body when he arrived at the hospital. Doctors told his mother that her son's chances of living were "virtually zero." Buys died two weeks later.

"I sent my son on this course to make him a better man, to give him a better future," Wilma Buys told The Telegraph. "I trusted Alex de Koker with his life."

Alex de Koker, 49, ran the training camp, along with employee Michael Erasmus, 20. The men are currently on trail for murder charges, child abuse and neglect. They are also charged with two cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

It has been alleged that Buys' death is the third among the teens who attend the courses run by de Koker, who is allegedly a member of murdered white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche's Iron Guards movement. According to The Telegraph, two other men have died in the same camp: Erich Calitz, 25, in 2007 from brain injuries; and Nicholas van der Walt, 19.

Gay Star News reports that the training camp has been linked to "gay conversion" therapy. Officials from the facility claim they can "make men" out of teenage boys.

According to Calitz's sister, Mathilda Groenwald, her brother was beaten when he asked to quit the camp. De Koker, she said, "told him he wasn't gay and he would make a man out of him." De Koker was slapped with a suspended sentence in 2009 over Caltiz's death but escaped charges for van der Walt's death, which was ruled to have been from a heart attack.

Some of the teens who entered the camp have been "perceived as gay and clearly effeminate," Gay Star News reported.

Buys' mother said her son had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and was having problems at school. She said a friend recommended her the course, which costs about $2,234, and that de Koker told her he could help her son find a job in the wildlife trade.

Buys entered the camp on Jan. 12, 2011. His mother only spoke to him three times but when de Koker talked with her, he said her son was hurting himself.

"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.'" The camp official told Buys' mother that her son was admitted to the hospital for tests on March 23 but when she arrived, her son was dying.

The case is currently on trial at Vereeneging District Court.

Gerhard Oosthulzen, 19, who shared a tent with Buys, testified in court that Buys' treatment during the training program included being was chained to his bed after he tried to escape the facility. He was also allegedly prohibited from using the bathroom and soiled himself a number of times.

Oosthulzen claimed Buys was once forced to eat his own feces. During another incident, he said, Oosthulzen says Buys tripped over a container of washing powder and was forced to eat it. He then vomited foam.

Oosthulzen further alleged that Buys was beaten with planks, sticks and plastic pipes when he didn't complete a work assignment. Oosthulzen said that he once saw de Koker and Erasmus shock Buys with a stun gun.

"He screamed, I was scared and ran away," Oosthulzen told the court. De Koker and Erasmus have both pleaded not guilty.