By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com April 30 2013 2:01 PM ET
A South African man was on trial last week after at least three young men died at his camp that promises to "make men out of boys."
Alex de Koker and employee Michael Erasmus have both been charged with murder, child abuse, and neglect, and two counts of assault. The pair are currently on trial for the 2011 death of 15-year-old Raymond Buys who died after two months in the camp. They have pleaded not guilty.
Buys's roommate Gerhard Oosthuizen, 19, testified in court that Buys was chained to a bed after trying to escape. He was forbidden to use the restroom and repeatedly had to soil himself, the South African Press Association reports. At one point, when Buys was left alone for an extended period of time, he was forced to eat his own fecal matter. Oosthuizen also described one instance in which Buys had a pillowcase placed over his head while he was repeatedly shocked with a stun gun.
Buys had a broken arm, bruises, and cigarette burns all over his body, and was severely emaciated and dehydrated by the time he was admitted to a hospital, The Telegraph reports. This was two months into his tenure at Alex de Koker's Echo Wild Game Rangers camp in South Africa, about an hour south of Johannesburg.
"I sent my son on this course to make him a better man, to give him a better future," his mother, Wilma Buys told The Telegraph. She said she sent her son to the camp to receive training to be a ranger. "I trusted Alex de Koker with his life."
The teen died two weeks after his mother was told his chance of survival was "virtually zero" upon admittance to a hospital. Buys seems to be the third person to have died under de Koker's watch. According to the report, Erich Calitz died from severe brain injuries in 2007, and Nicholas van der Walt died at a similar camp run by the same administrators. Calitz was reportedly beaten when he asked to quit the camp.
"Alex [de Koker] told him that he wasn't gay, and he would make a man out of him," according to Calitz's sister, Mathilda Groenwald.
According to activist and writer Melanie Nathan, the three young men who died due to treatment at the camp were all "perceived as gay and clearly effeminate."