Rapport apologises to apartheid-era politicians over Bird Island coverage

The Lost Boys of Bird Island cover. Image: Twitter/@cobbo3

Sunday newspaper Rapport has apologised for publishing the accusations of sexual assault leveled against apartheid-era politicians Magnus Malan, Barend du Plessis, and John Wiley in the book The Lost Boys of Bird Island, News24 reports.

The newspaper said its journalists had been unable to find “concrete evidence” of the allegations, adding that these accusations “could not be independently verified”.

“Steyn and … Minnie were adamant that evidence was on its way,” the newspaper wrote.

“Knowing what we do now, Rapport should have treated the publication of the allegations made in the book, as published on August 5 2018, differently. We apologise to our readers, Barend du Plessis, and the families of Magnus Malan and John Wiley.”

This follows a segment on Carte Blanche that aired on Sunday, April 7 and explored concerns about the book’s facts.

The segment resulted in surviving co-author of the bestselling book, Chris Steyn, on Tuesday night releasing the results of a polygraph test she took at the start of the month in the wake of ongoing questions being raised about the authenticity of her book’s claims.

The show included input from investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw, who has regularly raised red flags about numerous sensational allegations that first came to light last year when The Lost Boys of Bird Island was first published.

Pauw claimed to have seen three different versions of the manuscript as it evolved over time, which apparently contradicted each other in places. Last year, Pauw questioned the credibility of the book, which alleged that a group of senior apartheid-era leaders were involved in a secret paedophilia ring decades ago.

The primary source of the book was the memories and material collected by former cop and co-author Mark Minnie, who committed suicide not long after his work hit the shelves.

The only surviving member of the alleged ring is former finance minister Barend du Plessis, who protested his innocence to Carte Blanche, and again complained that he had never been interviewed prior to publication. He said that even though he was not named in the book, the references to a third minister were clearly aimed at him.

Although Carte Blanche reached out to Steyn, she did not speak to them. Her publishers also only responded with a written statement.

Last year, Pauw said that Steyn’s assumptions about the workings of the Civil Co-operation Bureau (CCB) apartheid death squad did not ring true for him. He also criticised her for not declaring in the book that she had married a former CCB commander, Lieutenant Colonel Eeben Barlow, a man who had admitted to killing enemies of the apartheid state.

Last year, Steyn defended this, saying she hadn’t mentioned this fact in the book as she’d felt it was not relevant. Her publishers had known, though, and she’d mentioned it in interviews.

She also said she stood by her book and would “challenge anybody to dispute that we have – and are still dealing with – a cover-up at the highest level”. She undertook to continue her pursuit of the truth.

Last week, she emailed The Citizen her polygraph test results for a number of questions focusing on whether she had knowingly fabricated or falsified anything in the book.Raymond Nelson, the past president of the American Polygraph Association, had asked her in the office of Ben Lombaard of LieTech Polygraph & Forensic Services in Cape Town: “In your book Lost Boys of Bird Island, did you fabricate any of your reported information sources?
“Did you falsify any of the allegations you wrote about those persons in your book Lost Boys of Bird Island?

“Regarding your book Lost Boys of Bird Island did you falsify any of the reported allegations about those persons?

“In your book Lost Boys of Bird Island did you include any of those allegations without an actual human source?”

Steyn answered “no” to all questions and the results recorded no significant reactions indicative of deception.

Although it is accepted that polygraph tests are useful tools to determine if a subject may be lying, they are not foolproof, and their results are rarely accepted in court.

Citizen reporter & Charles Cilliers / The Citizen