Dear Editor

Will Bishops pass this test?

I found your article about what is going on at Bishops at the moment most distressing. To start with I would like to convey my sympathy to the man you call Keith, who had to endure such humiliating experiences in his initiation year. I sincerely hope the culprit gets the punishment he deserves.

Bishops chairman Mike Bosman says that “as housemaster you are in loco parentis – in the place of the parent – and any good parent would have asked the question, why?” Is he  suggesting that, because the question wasn’t asked, Tim Hamilton-Smith failed as “in loco” parent? That is ridiculous.

I must agree with the cautionary note in the Noseweek report: in the context of a school where a then 39-year-old housemaster who, in addition to his own family responsibilities, had to deal with the daily chores of teaching, running a boarding school, sporting activities, staff meetings, checking homework, probably dealing with endless requests from parents and with the general issues of more than 70 teenage boys, all in the framework of the school rules of the time, is that realistic?

I only have two children, not 70, and erred from time to time. I can only hope I always knew when something was really wrong and got to the bottom of the problem.

Before you send your child to any place out of your direct influence, you should have taught him/her the difference between right and wrong, how to say “no” and to speak out if something isn’t the way it should be. In the case presented,  if the younger boy did not feel he could talk to his father about it, or the housemaster, there was always the headmaster, then Mr Gardener, who I remember as particularly kind and sensitive, or the chaplain. All would have put a stop to it, if they had been made aware of what was going on. I can say this with confidence, as I knew them personally. As far as I am aware, there was always an open door for my son as well.

Bishops is a wonderful school, with proud traditions and great teachers providing an environment where boys become fully rounded individuals well equipped to contribute to society wherever they go in the world. I was proud when my son was accepted at the school, and he was lucky enough to have been taught and moulded by such gifted teachers and principled human beings such as Tim Hamilton-Smith.

We considered boarding school to be a good experience for him and his friends, but I never considered this the moment when my function as a mother was on hold.

What is distressing is the conclusion reached by the school’s governing body and ODU chairman. This decision is in stark contrast to what I believed the values of the school to be, which places Fairness to all, Honour, Loyalty and Trust on top of the list.

The treatment of Tim Hamilton-Smith, who embodied all of the above qualities, is most distressing. After giving 40 years of his and his family’s lives to Bishops, without blemish, this humble man deserved much better.

I sincerely hope that the ODs I got to know and admire over the years, and who have a clear understanding of the ethos of the school and what it stands for, will rectify this terrible injustice.

It is always distressing to learn when something negative has occurred at a place you love and admire. But the world is what it is, and the grain of a good man shows when he stands up, deals with this honorably and not secretly, and comes out stronger at the end of the road. Bishops now has to prove again to its admirers what it’s made of.

Ursula Ehrentraut
Sea Point

► After reading the shocking article about Bishops, I began to wonder whether other readers had noticed that the alleged victim did not share the abuse story with his own father. How is it that the father expects his son to have shared this with his housemaster, when he could not even share it with his own father?

The father is surely the one who let the boy down by not encouraging his son to confide in him. If that had been the case it could all have been resolved at the time.

This disgraceful treatment of Mr Hamilton-Smith reflects very badly on the school management.

Y Leslie

► I have read your report about sexual abuse at Bishops and was – in some ways that you probably wouldn’t suspect – disturbed by it. I was not sure what you meant by “abuse”. In the two cases reported, the victim was indeed unwilling, and I think you are right to be concerned about this.

What worries me is a sexual witch-hunt. It is quite normal for boys of that age to experiment with their sexuality and they should not be interfered with. A draconian moral severity would be damaging to the psyche and I think it often was. When I attended Bishops there was a lot of this going on, such as mutual masturbation.

I was a little puritan in that period and when boys got into my bed at night, I threw them out, but I’m not sure I would have done so if the boys had been more attractive to me.

I was a budding gay, but most of the others turned into regular heterosexuals when they grew up.

I think all sermonising lectures about sexual contact between boys would be counter-productive. They should be left to find out about life on their own. Explicit cases of abuse should be dealt with as they occur and in one of the cases, the school did nothing for years, indeed did nothing at all.

What I find much more serious is that the Bishops I attended allowed the fag system, boys to be beaten at prefects’ meetings and a housemaster, Mr Hunt, who lashed his boys and left blood marks on their behinds and backs. I was determined not to mention this man’s name, but since you tell us we should report cases of abuse, I have done so.

In my first year we were all collected in a large lecture room and told we were the scum of the school. The fagging system was practised with cruel despotism. You were given punishments for not knowing the latest rugby scores. After three punishments you had a prefects’ meeting at which you were first terrorised psychologically and then lashed. I was lucky, as after an informal prefects’ meeting in the study of one of these prefects, I was so angry that I decided not to co-operate in any way with this system, refused to watch any rugby matches at all or to obey the prefects. I wrote to my parents who wrote to the school. The school was nervous, as someone before me had run away.

From then on I was left alone to cultivate my passions for music and poetry. As a result my last years at Bishops with its beautiful grounds were happy.

Felix de Villiers (Bishops 1953-59)
Verona, Italy

► Having read the article about the alleged goings on at Bishops, I can only concur with what Seneca (c.5BC-65 AD) wrote so many centuries ago: “It is when the gods hate a man with uncommon abhorrence that they drive him into the profession of a schoolmaster.”

G Heath


► I found the article on Bishops (nose176) most interesting. However, you are incorrect when you state that Bishops is “South Africa’s oldest private school”. Founded in 1848 – one year before Bishops – St George’s Grammar School is thus the country’s oldest independent school – see Cross of Gold: a history of St George’s Grammar School by Patrick Coyne (Ampersand Press, 1997).

And I’m sure the world and his wife have already pointed out that in your article, Leonard Kaplan undergoes a name-change and becomes Katz!

Paul Cannon
(OD, and Headmaster of St George’s Grammar School 1984 to 1997)

Right on both scores! We ourselves noticed the unfortunate name change in our story – a mental slip of the clutch – shortly after all print copies had been trucked off or mailed and there was nothing to be done about it. Fortunately all online versions and our archive could be corrected before publication. But thank you to all those hundreds of readers who thought to point out the error. It reassured us that the error was obvious. – Ed.

► Your story on Bishops comes as no surprise. My sons attended the school 35-odd years ago. The younger was so persistently and brutally whipped by his teacher Paul Dobson that he suffered psychological harm and was removed from the school on medical advice. However, my elder son was happy there, but recalls that Leonard Kaplan regularly showed him and another kid some porn.

Somerset West

The Tshake family needs support

I have been an avid Noseweek reader for many years. I was shocked and saddened to read the article “The Sounds of Silence” in nose176, on the murder of Moses Tshake. To add fuel to the fire I also learned that President Jacob Zuma’s friends, the Guptas, are also alleged to be involved in the corrupt situation he was investigating.

It is sad for the Tshake family that they cannot get the police to investigate the death of Moses thoroughly.

Would it be possible for Noseweek to set up a fund to follow-up and endeavour to force the police to carry out a thorough investigation into such deserving cases? The fund should be financed by public donations. I will happily contribute.

Bill O’Reilly
Port Owen

Right about Aussie bigotry

I live in Queensland, Australia and would like to say that the Andrea Durbach profile “What the Aussies can learn from us” (nose174) is brilliantly accurate to a word, and should be required reading for every Australian, if only to press the point that we are not living in isolation and things that happen here are observed and commented on from outside.

Australia’s treatment of its indigenous people has been and is still appalling. At least white South Africans recognise the faults of the past; but here, we just pretend it never happened and are quite often encouraged to maintain this attitude by our members of parliament.

A recent conservative prime minister went so far as to describe certain academics as having a “black armband” view of history when they were bold enough to discuss and write about the “stolen generation”, thereby putting a lid on any further discourse. This is the same bloke who vehemently refused to make any form of apology to the indigenous population.

Now, we are saddled with an even more conservative government who will shortly be tabling an amendment to a crucial section of the Racial Discrimination Act which makes it unlawful for someone to do an act that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race or ethnicity. Our Attorney General made the following statement whilst addressing the Senate: “People do have a right to be bigots, you know. In a free country, people have rights to say things that other people find offensive, insulting or bigoted.”

Warren Mindine, the Indigenous Advisory Council chairman responded with “We all know from history that when you let people off the chain in regard to bigotry, you start having problems.”

The 2014 budget sees 150 Indigenous Programme areas cut to five. Funding for indigenous languages has been cut too – approved by a prime minister who, prior to the election, stated that he would be “a prime minister for indigenous affairs”.

It seems that since white settlement 226 years ago, white Australians are still wishing that those pesky indigenous people would just go away.

So, thank you Andrea Durbach for your article, but don’t expect much response from this speck in the Pacific.

Sandra Devine
Buderim, Queensland

According to the Word…

Your magazine recently featured an article (nose174) with a photograph of a high-profile Christian leader [Angus Buchan] with the allegations that he had [associated with] a businessman alleged to have acted unethically [Bruce Winship] and had vague associations with various other high-profile leaders against which there were further allegations, and who had vague associations with another… Using this approach of guilt by unproven allegation and association you can smear anybody.  When you do so against a high-profile Christian leader, this by implication smears the reputation of the whole church.

It is no business of a Christian leader to judge a dispute between parties over whom he has no jurisdiction. Such disputes must be settled in a properly constituted court, whether church, civil, organisational or professional body, or arbitrator, or by common-cause admission. Jesus himself refused to judge cases outside his jurisdiction (Luke 12:14).

Buchan was right to give no comment. Once an allegation is proven or admitted to and not resolved, it is the responsibility of others to act on it (1 Corinthians 5:11).

The correct process to bring an allegation of serious ethical misconduct or teaching against a Christian is prescribed in Matthew 18. Jurisdiction is with the local church leadership – not the most visible associated leader. Allegations must first be brought to the person concerned; then with one or two witnesses, to the person accused; then the local church eldership; then the local church as a whole.

If the accused is found guilty, is unrepentant and excommunicated, the matter is public and the local church bears no responsibility for that person and no Christian should associate with them (1 Corinthians 5:11). The media would be well within their rights to call out anyone for having such an association prohibited by scripture. If a person found guilty in a church court is repentant, the matter is confidential and closed, unless that person is an elder (or pastor) and must be rebuked publicly (1 Timothy 5:20).

Where a local church eldership protects scandalous behaviour or false teaching, other churches may, after investigation, disassociate with it. An allegation or appeal against an elder should not be entertained without two witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19). An aggrieved person may also appeal an unjust situation directly to God in prayer who may judge directly.

There are some persons posing as Christian leaders who are vocal in the media but accountable to no local church. They are illegitimate and should not be given any credibility.

I trust the above will be helpful to readers and the media in dealing with such allegations in future.

Philip Rosenthal
ChristianView Network, Cape Town

►I read the article “Fencing with the truth” (nose174) then read it again – then the astounding rubbish of it hit me. Angus Buchan let Bruce Winship represent him but had nothing to do with his business. Why is he involved with this article? How is Buchan “fencing with the truth”?

I am astounded this irresponsible mud-slinging was published. What responsibility does Buchan have for Winship and how could he be aware of this stuff? You mock his Christian activity without any evidence that it is incorrect.

There is plenty of evidence of the incredibly coincidental rain that has fallen in drought-stricken areas when he has arrived to pray.

Was there any checking the testimony of witnesses on the Muslim event? Are his views on the USA unacceptable? I suggest you review the article and the cynical rubbish written in it.

Martin Giles
Cape Town

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