Collan Rex, the former assistant water polo coach at the prestigious Parktown Boys' High School, has been sentenced to 23 years behind bars. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The High Court sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court on Thursday sentenced former Parktown Boys’ High assistant water polo coach, Collan Rex, to 23 years direct imprisonment. 

The court sentenced Rex to 20 years in prison for 144 sexual assaults and an additional 3 years for the 12 common assaults he was convicted of in September.

Over the past two days, the court heard the victim impact statements of a number of pupils as well as a report from Xolisa Budaza, a social worker at the Department of Social Development. The court also heard how Rex, himself a former pupil at Parktown Boys, was exposed to a culture of physical and sexual abuse at the school while still a boarder.

“He was exposed to a culture which normalised and encouraged inappropriate sexual behaviour by fellow learners and adults such as his coach in the school,” the report read.

The former coach's sordid acts include grabbing, squeezing and rubbing his penis against those of learners in a lewd act known as dry humping.

The court acquitted him of more than 140 other counts - including charges of attempted murder, rape, sexual grooming and exposing minors to pornography - due to a lack of evidence.

A former Parktown Boys learner told the court in a testimony how Rex assaulted him and other boys several times. The court heard they were reluctant to report it because of the school's code of silence.

He described an incident when Rex assaulted him: "The one night my mom couldn't pick me up and be invited me to play Xbox and while I was sitting in the bed he said, "I didnt f***k you hard enough on tour."

Last week, the Parktown boys headmaster Malcolm Williams said they were hopeful that the matter would be finalised soon.

"This is important because of our focus on the welfare of the boys affected, and their families, and how the protracted nature of this case has made things very difficult for them. We must remember that the first postponement created the added difficulty of the boys having to write their November Examinations without this process having been completed, not in any way ideal," said Williams.

He said that this last step in the process will bring closure to what has been a most difficult time for all who have been involved – especially for those directly involved in the court case.

"We applaud the courage and integrity of the boys who have come forward to report past incidents of abuse, initiation and racism," said Williams.

African News Agency and IOL