Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

'I Don't Want to Die'

Inside a Massage Parlor

Standing in Graham Road, the house at No. 7 looks like any other suburban house. There is a white wall with picket fencing, a frangipani tree with white flowers in bloom, offset by the red blotches of the hibiscus across the pathway. Walking up the path to the front door, there is a white security gate. And behind the gate, a massage parlor for men who are interested in homosexual sex.

Sizzlers is believed to have been one of the oldest gay massage parlors in South Africa, dating back to 1997. It was known for its regular clients, which included married men, older men up to their 60s, as well as young men who wanted to have their first homosexual experience. Careerwise, clientele ranged from academics to rugby players to actors to businessmen, and many tourists also frequented the establishment.

A former Sizzlers masseur told Die Burger in January 22, 2003, that clients paid a basic fee of R120 (approx. $US20) for one hour, which included a full body massage and masturbation. Beyond that, the client had to specify what he wanted, the masseur would consent if he so chose, and the client would have to pay extra. Such extra treatments could consist of anything from oral sex to a complete sexual encounter. In this manner, masseurs could make up to R12,000 (approx. $US 2033) per month, depending on what they were willing to do, servicing up to 95 clients in the same amount of time.

Typically, about 10 masseurs lived in the house together with a manager, although some masseurs had other living arrangements. They would sleep during the day and work from the evening until the early morning hours. The masseurs tended to be young, ranging in age from their late teens to late 20s, and frequently hailed from the South African platteland, the rural areas inward from the coast. Many were not homosexual themselves, but found the work to be a source of an easy and profitable income. They would work under industry names.

Many sources stated that drugs were considered to be necessary for survival as a male prostitute, to deal with the nature of the work. The former masseur mentioned above admitted to having used cocaine, and some of the victims apparently also relied on drugs to some extent. Marijuana, cocaine, crack and ecstasy were reported to be the most popular drugs among male sex workers in Sea Point.

A Dutchman, speaking to Die Burger in January 23, 2003, said that he often visited South Africa and had been a frequent client at Sizzlers in the past. However, he had recently stopped going there because of the manner in which the owner allegedly treated the masseurs. This man, who didnt want his name published, described Sizzlers as a nest of sex slavery and "one of the worst places of its kind. According to him, Otgaar exploited many of the young men who worked there.

In contrast, a 25-year-old man, who had been a lover of Otgaar from 1998 to 2000, stated that he had lived at Sizzlers at times and the masseurs were treated very well, much better than those at some of the other Capetonian massage parlors. A former Sizzlers masseur said that no one was forced to do anything he did not consent to.

Then, a little more than a month and a half after the massacre, on March 8, it was stated that the entire incident may very well have been avoided. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GLA) received a number of complaints about Sizzlers, in particular that the masseurs were treated like sex slaves and that they had no freedom of movement (possibly from a man of Dutch origin?). On November 21, 2002, they wrote a letter to the city council, stating that Otgaar was illegally operating a business on a property falling in a residential zone. The council responded on December 15 by ordering Otgaar to cease conducting business activities on the premises within 30 days. Otgaar did meet with an inspector from the land-use management department, but otherwise did nothing to alter the situation. On January 13, the council notified Otgaar that representatives would come to inspect the property, as his 30 days were depleted. When they arrived, they were not allowed access to all areas of the property, but they nevertheless concluded that business activities were still being conducted. The council, however, do not have the authority to remove persons from their property; their only recourse is to bring the matter before the court. A week later, 10 men were brutally attacked. The opinion was voiced that, had Otgaar adhered to the notice, the massacre may not have taken place, or, at worst, fewer people would have died. The problem with this line of reasoning, however, is that it serves to shift blame from the offender to the victim. It is no better than blaming a woman wearing a short skirt for being raped.

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