Cape Town – Prominent criminal attorney William Booth has rubbished claims that his client, Fiona Viotti, a former Bishops Diocesan College teacher, has skipped the country amid allegations of sexual abuse of a number of pupils at the private school in Rondebosch.
The 30-year-old history teacher had immediately resigned at the elite boys’ school when allegations of a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old matric pupil came to light.
He allegedly wanted to end it, she refused and he called for help from his parents, who informed headmaster Guy Pearson.
Pearson confirmed in a letter to parents that an investigation of serious misconduct was under way and that Viotti resigned on Thursday last week.
The matter has since escalated, with the school appointing an attorney to probe allegations that Viotti, who is married, had sexually abused more boys at the school.
“She has not left the country, I do not know where this misinformation comes from. There are no criminal charges laid. Basically there is no basis for such charges,” said Booth.
“The matter is being investigated by the school, I do not wish to make any further comment. I have asked for the names of all including her family to not be published for reasons of privacy and respect of dignity.”
There were also reports alleging that Viotti had sent nude pictures of herself to pupils and videos of her masturbating on a bed.
Booth said if there were videos, then another aspect was “how you came (to be) in possession of the video or anybody got in possession of the video”.
In a statement emailed to parents, Pearson had said on Saturday: “I am aware that there has been a lot of talk and speculation in the Bishops community and in the general public about the inappropriate behaviour of one of our teachers at the college.
“We are taking this very seriously. The teacher has resigned with immediate effect and we have appointed an independent attorney to undertake an investigation.
“We understand that there will be lots of questions, but please appreciate that it is a matter which needs to be managed with utmost sensitivity and I cannot share more information at this stage.”
Booth did not say when he was expected to meet Viotti again.
She has since deleted all her social media profiles. Viotti is the niece of former Bok rugby coach Nick Mallett.
Lebogang Montjane, executive director at the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa said: “It is the school that must conduct an internal investigation. We are an association and don’t have the capacity to investigate.”
The incident comes few days after the South African Council for Educators (Sace) presented its annual 2018/19 report to Parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education where it noted that sexual abuse by teachers had climbed by more than 230% over the past five years.
Sace spokesperson Themba Ndhlovu said the reports were on its members in public and private schools.
He acknowledged that the number of reported cases of improper relationships between teachers and pupils “was growing at an alarming rate, and needs to be addressed by all the provincial education departments as a matter of urgency”.