Bird Island report was 'mistake' - Afrikaans newspaper Rapport apologises to apartheid politicians

14 April 2019 - 12:35 By TimesLive
The Lost Boys of Bird Island leaves readers with many unanswered questions.
The Lost Boys of Bird Island leaves readers with many unanswered questions.
Image: Supplied

The Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport has apologised to apartheid finance minister Barend du Plessis and the families of the late Magnus Malan and John Wiley for its front-page report based on the book "The Lost Boys of Bird Island".

Du Plessis, former defence minister Malan, who died in 2011, and Wiley, who was the minister of environmental affairs and tourism and committed suicide in 1987, were accused in the book of molesting young boys.

Du Plessis was not named in the book but he told Rapport last August that the references to a third minister were clearly aimed at him and he denied any involvement.

In an editorial published on page 2 in Rapport on Sunday, the newspaper said new information had come to light after a report by journalist Jacques Pauw in Vrye Weekblad casting doubt over the contents of the book.

"On August 5, 2018, Rapport published a prominent article over allegations in the book 'The Lost Boys of Bird Island' on our front page.

"It was a mistake.

"In the week after the publication of the book, we could already establish that, although there was corroborating evidence for some of the allegations in the book, the key allegations were based on hearsay."

Its authors, Christa Steyn and former cop Mark Minnie, claim in the book that the National Party ministers and Port Elizabeth businessman Dave Allen were all part of a ring that ferried coloured boys to Bird Island in Algoa Bay and raped and molested them.

Wiley and Allen died of apparent suicide, although the book details alleged inconsistencies with the listed cause of death. 

Minnie shot himself dead shortly after the release of the book last August.

Rapport said it had sources who confirmed that the National Party ministers spent time on Bird Island or near Bird Island. A former policeman, Gordon Lamastra, also confirmed that there had been a raid on a minister's house to search for child pornography. Lamastra said he was present when an apparent victim of molestation pointed out Malan and Allen in a picture.

A journalist for a sister publication of Rapport was also contacted by a man who claimed he had been abused by Malan as a child.

"But no journalist could independently verify the most damaging allegations," said Rapport.

"The book's authors, Christa Steyn and the ex-policeman Mark Minnie, insisted evidence was forthcoming.

"After Minnie shot himself... more information came to light that cast doubt over the integrity of the book.

"Last week, investigative journalist Jacques Pauw published emails on Vrye in which he tells the publisher a few days before the publication of the book: 'We have no concrete evidence that any of the three ministers sexually molested a child.'...

"Pauw had also seen the first two of Minnie's three manuscripts for his part of the book. Malan's name does not appear in it.

"Knowing what we know now, Rapport should have handled the publication of the book's allegations differently.

"We apologise to our readers, Barend du Plessis, and relatives of Magnus Malan and John Wiley.

"Due to the damaging nature of the allegations, we should have used more caution in how we reported on it..."