The Waterkloof “Five” – Exposing the Trial

Waterkloof family’s fall from grace

SHE had it all: lovely home, successful husband, talented son and a thriving nursery school. Now she has lost her home and several other properties, her son is in jail, her husband has been disgraced and the family is deeply in debt. Mariëtte Becker still runs her preschool – and is clinging to her self-esteem.
Christoff Becker, with his mother, Mariette

Christoff Becker, with his mother, Mariette

Her son, Christoff (24) is one of the so-named Waterkloof Four who beat a homeless man to death. Her husband, Christo – until last year headmaster at Pretoria’s Hoërskool Waterkloof – was recently in hospital, reportedly after suffering either an epileptic seizure or a heart attack.

Pretoria is buzzing with rumours that he took an overdose of pills. The picture of confidence – some said arrogance – during his son’s high-profile trial, he was sacked amid allegations of financial irregularities involving R5 million. Mariëtte refuses to believe her husband would try to kill himself. ‘‘He would never take an overdose,’’ she says adamantly.
Dr Christo Becker

Dr Christo Becker

Dr Christo Becker and his deputy, Andre Eloff, are alleged to have been involved in massive misappropriation of funds at Waterkloof High School.  Becker, father of Christoff, one of the so-called Waterkloof Four currently serving a 12-year sentence for murder and assault, and Eloff have apparently been implicated, along with two women in the school’s administration section, in the maladministration of mainly school funds, apparently running into millions of rands.

She said her husband was approached by another school in 1998 to become the principal.  The then governing body at Waterkloof apparently asked him to stay, offering him the same privileges and more than he was offered by “the other school”.
“A contract was signed regarding this with the former governing body. Then the whole thing with our son happened, so we did not think much about this contract. When the new governing body was appointed, certain misunderstandings and disputes arose,” she said.
The alleged offences occurred over the past four years.  Becker and Eloff had resigned before they could be put on compulsory leave.  “Is this a case of ‘like father like son’?” one parent asked. Others said the issue had “opened a huge can of worms”.
There had been serious questions since 2006 over the way in which the school spent its money and handled sponsorships.  This included questions as to where the money went that the school received from renting out billboards, which produced an income of between R80 000 and R100 000 per month, the source said.
Many parents wanted to know how the principal had paid for his son’s legal costs while others raised eyebrows over the deputy principal’s posh house in Silver Lakes estate.
Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy has dismissed appeals by the Waterkloof High School’s principal and deputy.  Phahlane said Bekker’s appeal was dismissed due to the “extremely serious nature” of his offences, his abuse of the relationship of trust between himself and the department, and failure to disclose that he was undertaking remunerative work for various organisations without the permission of the employer.
Bekker was found guilty on three acts of misconduct.
In spite of their conviction Mariëtte doesn’t accept her son committed the crime.
‘‘My Chrissie would never do something like that,’’ she says.
“Before Chrissie’s court case we had a dream life. Now everything is shattered. But it comforts me to think God has a purpose for everything.’’
She’s allowed to visit Christoff once a week, for half an hour on Saturdays, but she knows little about his life behind bars. ‘‘Chrissie doesn’t actually tell us about it.’’
Mariëtte doesn’t bemoan the loss of her glamorous, wealthy lifestyle. ‘‘Of course it was nice to be able to buy all those fine things but I realise now you need only one house, one car and a little bit of food to survive.’’

Conclusion

It has been more than 10 years of trials, appeals, paroles and controversy, a kind of soap opera that will be remembered by most of us for many decades to come. There are many questions left unanswered regarding to the crimes committed in 2001, those of which surfaced during trial. There are also questions we need to ask regarding our criminal justice system.

Zuma, the Waterkloof Four, Justice and Apartheid

Pierre de Vos was aksed to write an article about the Waterkloof Four for a newspaper. He penned the following article in 2008:
jailvid-christoff-25I wonder whether Jacob Zuma and Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyer discussed the plight of the Waterkloof Four when they met last year around the braaivleis fire to discuss the crime problem in South Africa. Steve, so he tells us all the time, is very worried about crime. Zuma apparently too.
Not that Zuma and the Waterkloof Four seem to have much in common.
After all, Zuma herded cattle when he was a boy and only completed five years of schooling before he sacrificed so much – even spending several years in prison on Robben Island – to fight the evil system of apartheid.
I do not know the four young men from Waterkloof, but they clearly grew up in wealthy surroundings and it is not apparent that they had ever suffered or found themselves on the wrong side of apartheid. I do not want to judge them, but I would be surprised if they had ever thought or shown any concern about the injustices of the past.

They were mere boys when Mandela was released from prison in 1990, after all.”

And Zuma has of course (not yet) been found guilty of any crime. His lawyers have made sure of that by launching one appeal after the other through our courts.
The Waterkloof Four, on the other hand, is spending their first weekend in jail after they were convicted of the racist murder of a homeless man and their last appeal was rejected by the court this week.
Mr. Zuma might never be found guilty of any crime – even though Schabir Shaik was sent to jail for 15 years for bribing Zuma. That is because our legal system requires a court to decide afresh whether Zuma is guilty and whether he had the intention of being bribed by Shaik or not. Maybe he was just very naive or completely unorganised.
But on one level these five men do seem to have something in common.

Unlike most South African who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, Zuma and the Waterkloof Four have enough money to engage the services of very expensive and well-trained lawyers.’

For many of us it is difficult to have to admit that almost fifteen years after the end of apartheid it seems almost as difficult for rich (mostly white) South Africans to be sent to jail, than it is for the biblical camel to enter through the eye of a needle.

jailvid-christoff-26

According to Becker’s legal council,Oeloff de Meyer, the video was taken during December last year by another inmate, a long time before their parole.

Rich influential people, people with good lawyers, are seldom sent to jail in South Africa.

Some would argue that the Constitution should be blamed for this state of affairs. And it is true that section 35 of the Constitution states that every accused has the right to a fair trial. This means that every accused has the right to be presumed innocent before an impartial and indpendent court until such time as the state has proven the case against him or her beyond reasonable doubt.
But this section of the Constitution also clearly states that a court has to balance the rights of an accused against the interest of the state and society to prosecute crimes efficiently and effectively. I am therefore not convinced that the Constitution can be blamed for this state of affairs.

Most South Africans accused of serious crimes like murder or fraud cannot afford to pay for a gaggle of lawyers to help them enforce their constitutional rights in court.’

But this is not the case for people like Zuma and the Waterkloof Four. With enough money, legal knowledge and ingenuity good (but very expensive) lawyers can fight every technical misstep by the police or the National Prosecuting Authority and can appeal their case all the way to the Constitutional Court to try and keep them out of jail.

Reinach Tiedt distanced himself from Becker when they were released.

Reinach Tiedt distanced himself from Becker when they were released.

Many members of the public – is Steve perhaps one of them? – and politicians get rather upset by this and complain that “criminals have more rights than ordinary citizens in South Africa” – until they, or somebody they know or support find themselves in legal trouble of course.

It’s a sad fact that in South Africa, where we are still fighting to instill a deep respect for human rights values, too many people still act as if rights only belong to them and their friends and not to everyone in society.
This is why Zuma – who was acquitted on a charge of rape with the assistance of very good lawyers – could have stated without apparent irony earlier this year that rape accused should not be given access to lawyers.
This is also why some of those who have some sympathy with the Waterkloof Four and have cheered on their legal team’s efforts to keep them out of jail by launching appeal after appeal, probably stand around braaivleis fires (with or without Steve Hofmeyer around or on the CD) complaining about the fact that murderers and other despicable criminals hide behind the constitution to keep them out of jail.
If Mr Zuma could find a few minutes in between his various court appearances and musical performances to think about the Waterkloof Four, it might make him at least slightly uncomfortable. He would not fail to notice that legal delays cannot keep one out of jail for ever if one really is guilty as charged.
But I have to admit (do I now sound vengeful?), the news that the four rich white kids from Waterkloof went to jail this week made me rather happy.
In these dark days in which many politicians and even lawyers continue to launch virulent attacks on judges and on the judiciary and our constitutional state can seem to be under threat, the events of the past week sends a positive and uplifting message.

It confirms that we are all still equal before the law – regardless of whether we are rich or poor, black or white, influential or without any friends in high places – and that the constitutional rights of accused persons, even rich and important ones, cannot protect them from the criminal justice system for ever.’

jailvid-frikkie-04

Becker and Frikkie Du Preez (pictured above) were held in single quarters at the Kgosi Mampuru prison

This does not mean our criminal justice system is working well. Goodness, Johnny de Lange just last week admitted that more than 2 million cases are never seriously investigated and never even get to the courts.
It does mean that the Constitution works quite well and that when the police and the NPA do their job, courts are well placed to balance the interest of accused against the interest of society. Rich, influential accused persons can use the constitution to delay their appointment with the prison warders and those ugly orange overalls, but if the state does its job, they will end up in jail sooner or later.
Maybe Zuma and Steve Hofmeyer should get together again to discuss the crime situation in South Africa. Maybe they could then agree that the Constitution is not standing in the way of common criminals who deserve to be sent to jail and that guilty people (even rich and influential ones) do go to jail – even if it might take a few years.

The story continues with an update on our next page

2 Comments
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