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Sunday Times STLive By Editorial, 2012-02-12

A repugnant way to score

Gert van Schalkwyk (left) and Reinach Tiedt (right) are back in jail. They are pictured with Christoff Becker, also of the "Waterkloof Four". File photo.
Image: Marianne Pretorius Sunday Times

The Pretoria Regional Court has dismissed an appeal by the commissioner of correctional services to overturn a parole board decision to convert the 12-year sentences handed down to Waterkloof killers Gert van Schalkwyk and Reinach Tiedt to house arrest.

The two, who had served a mere three-and-a-half years of their sentences, are now free to thumb their noses at the "justice" they have experienced. The homeless man they murdered and the one they assaulted in Pretoria in 2001 are but footnotes in the story about how they have managed to avoid paying the proper price for their crimes.

What is even more galling is that Van Schalkwyk is practising rugby with the Pumas, the team for which he played before he was jailed. It is galling that the conditions of his house arrest allow it, and it is appalling that the Pumas are willing to take him into their fold in the absence of any public display of remorse.

Van Schalkwyk and Tiedt's trial, along with co-accused Christoff Becker and Frikkie du Preez, showcased the feral attitude of a pack of four privileged, entitled kids getting their kicks abusing a homeless man. It was the ultimate metaphor for the racist South Africa that was supposed to have been banished to the past.

Now two men, who have never expressed remorse or sought to make amends for their crimes, are out of jail. The lingering message is that there are different rules for the privileged who can afford good lawyers. The victims, on the other hand, have no voice.

Van Schalkwyk's stepfather, Jimmy Stonehouse, coaches the Pumas, and perhaps that explains their embrace of a man who killed another because he could - not because he was in danger or had suffered harm at his hands.

To ask us to celebrate whatever talent Van Schalkwyk may have for rugby is to ask us to turn a blind eye to the debt he has not paid to society. To watch him on the rugby field is to gloat at his triumph over the lives that mattered little to him in 2001, and apparently matter little to him now.

As with apartheid, it is to brush the brutal past under the carpet and pretend that justice has been served. It has not.