Note: This story has been updated since its original publication at 11.52am.
In a press statement released on Tuesday morning, former apartheid-era minister Barend du Plessis’ attorneys revealed they had wrung major concessions from the publishers of a book, The Lost Boys of Bird Island, containing allegations against Du Plessis and two other, now deceased, former government ministers in the 1980s.
The book is no longer being sold, though the publishers said in a statement later in the day that they were still willing to defend the book despite apologising to Du Plessis.
Johan Victor Attorneys had earlier claimed that NB Publishers had proposed to apologise for statements in the book that “may suggest that Mr Barend du Plessis, though not mentioned by name, might have been involved in the sexual abuse of underage boys”.
The company then did make this apology by Tuesday afternoon.
“NB Publishers unreservedly apologises for the publication of these allegations to the extent that they implicate Mr Du Plessis, and for the attendant infringement of his dignity and impairment of his reputation, as well as the emotional distress this caused him and his family. In order to limit further distribution of the book, NB Publishers has withdrawn unsold copies of both the Afrikaans and English editions of the book from bookshops and the e-book has been removed from online e-trade platforms.”
They added that the apology was limited to Du Plessis and did not extend to “any other person identified in the book as having played a role in the events portrayed in the book”.
They said they would “defend any attempt at discrediting the book and its contents in the appropriate forum”.
The book was written by the now late Mark Minnie, a former police detective and Chris Steyn, an investigative journalist. They alleged the paedophile network’s key members were then defence minister Malan and then minister of environmental affairs John Wiley, both now deceased.
The book was named after Bird Island, in Algoa Bay, where the ring allegedly operated. Prominent members of government and the business community allegedly took children to the island, where they were abused, and even possibly murdered.
Shortly after the book was published, Minnie was found dead in his home outside Port Elizabeth from an apparent suicide.
The book is no longer listed on the publisher’s website. Online retailer Amazon also lists it as “currently unavailable” and other online merchants don’t have it listed any more either.
What Du Plessis’ lawyers have said:
In their press release, Johan Victor Attorneys reference that Minnie, “in a telling e-mail to his co-author and editor, advised that he is bothered by the fact that: ‘We have no concrete evidence to the effect that any of the three ministers sexually molested a victim. We need a victim to come forward and make an accusation followed by an identification.'”
Johan Victor has accused the authors of lying to the public, “and to warp facts for their own gain”.
The lawyers claim they collected their own evidence to confirm “there is no concrete evidence indicating that any of the ministers perpetrated any form of paedophilic act, at Bird Island, or elsewhere”.
Du Plessis hired a forensic investigator who had earlier been tasked by the Human Rights Foundation to investigate the circumstances about the death of Minnie.
What he found was, among other things:
“Shortly after publication of the book the helicopter pilot who was interviewed by Rapport said that due to all the control and flight management issues, which would have had to be overcome to have ferried the parties to and from the island as was allegedly the case, the logistics would have just made it impossible to do it unnoticed.
“Thomas William Case on 27 June 2019 deposed to an on-camera affidavit, wherein he stated under oath that he had read the book and immediately identified himself as William Hart.
‘I was shocked because every word is a lie. I highlighted certain portions in orange and made notes for Wouter [the forensic investigator] in the book, but I couldn’t make notes of all the lies, because then you would have to dip the whole book in ink’.
“Hans Christian Benecke stated he is the chairman of Atlas Organic Fertilisers (Pty) Ltd since 1966. He stated under oath that:
‘The company won the concession to scrape guano on Bird Island Algoa Bay on open tender. Any visitor to the island who was not in the employ of the company had to have permits from the Department of Sea Fisheries to go there. These permits were always organized by me. No senior members of the Government could have visited the island without my knowledge and approval. I was personally present on Bird Island when any senior minister of the Government visited the island, and specifically when the Cabinet Ministers Barend du Plessis, Magnus Malan, and John Wiley were there. During any visits of senior members of the Government, there were never boys of under 21 on the island, regardless of race.'”
Furthermore, Advocate John Scott, now retired, but former senior State Prosecutor in Port Elizabeth, during 1980-1986 deposed to an affidavit, saying that all the statements attributed to him in the book were false, including such minor details as the aftershave he used or the major detail of knowing Minnie.
‘I most certainly did not leave a message with anyone for Minnie to contact me as I did not know him. Most importantly I never knew or met Mark Minnie ever in my life. His name and image became known to me only this year after I was approached for comment.’
Willem Maritz deposed to an affidavit stating that for a period of three years he had stayed over on the island for a week at a time every six weeks and there were no boys on the island and the Rapport article of 5 August 2018 upset him so much that he called the newspaper to voice his objections as to the “falsehoods published”.
The lawyer further argued: “It is unfathomable that the publisher overlooked the fact that before their appointment and periodically thereafter the head of state or government subjected potential appointees to intensive background scrutiny.”
They also claimed it was “incomprehensible that the story that a youth survived a pistol shot in his anus could be true since it is simply medically impossible”.
“This fictitious incident was designed to construct a whole series of consequences to implicate Magnus Malan and his security detail in a massive cover-up scandal. Furthermore, it sensationalised the book.”