Two Other Teens Died at Echo Wild Game Rangers Camps
Erich Calitz, 18 years old at the time he attended one of de Koker’s camps, died in 2007 from what was later revealed to be serious brain injuries. Nicolaas van der Walt, a 19-year-old, also died that same year at the camp.
A subsequent trial surrounding Calitz and van der Walt’s death heard that Calitz had wanted to quit the camp. Mr de Koker reportedly acted violently and is quoted as telling Calitz he “wasn’t a moffie” a slang-term that carries many of the same connotations as the term “faggot,” and that “he [de Koker] would make a man out of him.”
Calitz’s family were first told by a phone text message that their son had died of a heart attack. This story would change over the next few weeks as they were told first a seizure was responsible, and later that Calitz’ death was a result of dehydration.
Only later was it revealed that bleeding on the brain, often though not necessarily the result of a repeated and sustained assault, had been the cause of Calitz’s demise.
Mr Calitz’s story bears a striking similarity to Buys’ death, with his sister Methilda Groenwald reportedly telling the Johannesburg Star newspaper that, before he was sent to the camp, her brother had slight brain-damage and had struggled to hold down jobs. It emerged that Calitz had been “lured” into attending the camp by their brother who worked as an instructor at the camp.
Far from finding care and help there, “He was hit, burnt and wounded,” Groenewald is quoted as saying of Calitz’s injuries during a subsequent trial. “It’s beyond sick — it’s psychopathic.”
In 2009, de Koker was given only a suspended sentence over Calitz’s death, and he dodged charges entirely for Mr. van der Walt’s death which, despite evidence van der Walt had been choked with a seatbelt, was labeled on the official police record as a heart attack.
A separate inquiry was launched into how Calitz’s death was also originally declared as “natural,” something that appears to be ongoing. It is unclear at this time whether Buys’ case will lead to renewed investigation into the Calitz and van der Walt deaths.
Alex de Koker’s Manliness Camps: A Right Wing Training Camp?
Details surrounding the Echo Wild Game Rangers camps’ exact nature are still a matter for police investigation, but at the time of the Calitz trial, it was understood that around 13 people were involved in the day to day running of the camp. The nature of the camp, too, has been the subject of scrutiny.
During the 2007 investigation and trial surrounding Calitz’s death, police Director Sally de Beer was quoted as saying that the camps’ training regimen appeared much removed from what had been promoted, noting, “It is suspected that the paramilitary-style training presented on this course was not normal ranger training and this forms a key part of the investigation.”
Indeed, another report notes de Koker and staff used military rank titles when addressing each other and that skills like leopard crawling, a military-specific crawl, and endurance running and walking were staples of the plan.
Alex de Koker’s links to The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) are well documented, with Koker reportedly having been closely associated with murdered white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche.
The AWB, and its political arm The Iron Guard, is a far right “resistance” group that, along with other right-wing groups, preach a creed that they as white farm owners must arm and train themselves for the day when black South Africans attempt to take over their land.
The Daily Maverick notes the following interesting overview of de Koker and his place in the AWB’s affiliated groups:
De Koker styles himself as a “general” in an organisation called “X-MilitereLeiers” (X-Military Leaders), judging from a press release sent out in September 2011, following the arrest of De Koker for the murder of Buys. In it, De Koker is described as providing “crucial services to protect the Farmers Community (Caucasian and non-white) in South Africa”. The statement also accuses the SAPS of using the murder charge as a “senseless smoke screen” in order to “try and obtain information of the farming community’s activities and self-defence projects regarding their farms”. In particular, it references the police’s confiscation of a photo taken showing De Koker with deceased AWB leader Eugene Terreblanche.
Mr. de Koker has denied that the camp programs he runs, and has run since 2006, are training camps for the AWB.
As a matter of interest, pictures of the kinds of “training” being used at AWB camps appear in The Afrikaner Journal. While no evidence yet links the two directly, these pictures provide striking similarities to some of the conditions and “paramilitary” training regimens described in the Calitz and Buys cases.
Image credit: Thinkstock.
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