'Orsmond Was Jealous of the Boys'

By Kashiefa Ajam
October 20, 2007

A former Boys Town staffer says it was an "open secret" that the late Catholic Bishop of Johannesburg, Reginald Orsmond, had allowed boys to sleep in his room.

This comes after at least three ex-students accused Orsmond, the founder of Boys Town, of sexual molestation.

The woman staffer, whose identity is known to Weekend Argus, said this week that nobody had ever thought it unusual for the boys to sleep in Orsmond's room - but when pop star Michael Jackson was accused of molesting young boys, she had realised the boys might have been abused.

"It was the 1970s; it never occurred to us," she said. "All of the staff was aware of this. At the time I didn't realise there was any harm in it.

"We didn't know that people did those kinds of things to children. What we were concerned about was that the boys who did sleep in his room were getting special treatment and privileges. But we never suspected he was taking advantage of these boys in that way."

She said that when the Jackson trial made headlines, it was the first time she realised what might have happened.

"I felt sad and disturbed when I realised that boys who were at Boys Town because they had had a bad start in life might have been further abused there and I was there and didn't even notice."

The woman, a former counsellor, said Orsmond had also let some of the boys stay with him at a holiday cottage in Munster, KwaZulu-Natal.

"Some of the boys had no homes to go to during the school holidays, so they would stay with (Orsmond) at the cottage - some slept in his room."

It did not make much sense at the time, she says, but Orsmond would get really angry when any of the women teachers or counsellors became close to the students.

She was asked to leave because Orsmond accused her of sleeping with the students.

"I was not the first: all the women who became popular with the boys were immediately fired for no reason."

In a chapter of the autobiography of Mario D'Offizi, Bless Me Father, he described how the leading cleric had engaged him in sex acts.

Two weeks ago it emerged that the Catholic Church could face a class action after another former Boys Town student made allegations of molestation by the late Bishop of Johannesburg.


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