Small town blown away by teacher-pupil sex trial

04 July 1999

THE town of Nigel has been rocked by a trial in which a popular female teacher has been accused of performing oral sex on the teenage son of a local dominee.

Suzette Steenkamp, 40, a married mother of two, was arrested at the John Vorster High School in the small Gauteng agricultural town in February on charges of contravening the Sexual Offences Act.

The charge sheet alleges that she suggestively touched the boy and then performed oral sex on him in October.

The boy turned 18 this week, but was only 17 years old when the alleged incident occurred. The magistrate ordered that the boy's name and testimony not be released.

This week Steenkamp, who has worked as an Afrikaans teacher at the school since 1980, pleaded not guilty to the charges in the Nigel Regional Court.

But she said assumptions about her guilt by many townspeople had already turned her family's life into "a nightmare".

Suspended from her teaching post and released on R1 000 bail, she said her family had been the target of obscene phone calls.

"My little 15-year-old son had to hear someone tell him that his mother was a pervert when he picked up the phone," said Steenkamp. "These past four months have been terrible - this ruins a person's life."

Her husband, Klippies Steenkamp, an insurance broker, said he had suffered "major financial losses" due to "all the talk".

"The whole town is divided over this," he said.

The boy, who sings in the school's "Vossie Revue" choir - which was co-organised by Steenkamp - was described by prosecutor George Pieterse as "emotional and depressive".

A friend testified that the incident took place shortly before a performance by Vossie Revue.

"He [the boy] said that he had been with Mrs Steenkamp and that they had been drinking. He said she had invited him to her room," the friend said.

He said the boy's demeanour had changed dramatically afterwards, going from fun-loving to "as if everything disappeared".

Both sides agreed that there had been a "trust relationship" between teacher and pupil, and that he had visited her house three times.

Steenkamp testified that he had been drunk and she had given him coffee and a sandwich, and had forced him to swim in her pool, but denied having oral sex with him. "There wasn't time," she said. "I rushed to get him in the right condition [for the concert]."

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