The Apology

This lead article in Rapport was published on 14 April 2019, with the heading: “Bird Island’: Ons het ‘n fout gemaak” (“Bird Island: We made a mistake”).

On 5 August 2018, Rapport reported prominently on our front page on allegations made in the book “The Lost Boys of Bird Island”.

It was a mistake.

Within the week after the publication of the book we could establish that although there had been confirmative evidence for some of the allegations in the book, the key allegations were based on hearsay evidence.

Sources had told Rapport that all three cabinet ministers who were implicated in the book – Magnus Malan and John Wiley, both of whose identities are revealed, and Barend du Plessis, whose name is withheld in the book, had indeed been on the island which is in the proximity of Port Elizabeth one or more times.

Former policeman Gordon Lamastra had confirmed to Rapport that an alleged victim of sexual acts, reportedly committed in a house on the Tsitsikamma coast, had previously pointed out Wiley, Malan and Dave Allen on a photograph.

Lamastra had also confirmed that he had been present during a raid of a minister’s house in search of child pornography, but had not been able to confirm what had been found.

A senior air force officer had furthermore confirmed that he had been involved with arrangements for a flight for Wiley, Malan and another cabinet member in an air force helicopter to Bird Island in early 1986.

A journalist from a sister publication of Rapport had been contacted by a 44 year old ‘Mr. X’ of the Eastern Cape, who had claimed that Malan had previously molested him.

No journalist could however find any proof that could be independently verified, for the most harmful allegations.

The authors of the book, Chris Steyn and ex-policeman Mark Minnie, had insisted that proof was on the way.

After Minnie had shot himself (an incident that was followed by absurd allegations that it had also been the result of a plot to prevent the full truth from emerging), more information came to light that further heightened doubt about the integrity of the book.

Last week the investigative journalist Jacques Pauw published e-mail messages on, in which Minnie had written the following to his publisher a few days before publication: “We have no concrete evidence that any of the three ministers sexually molested a victim.”

Moreover, the alleged victim “William Hart” had told Pauw, and subsequently told Derek Watts of Carte Blanche last Sunday, that he had never met Malan and had been nearly 27 when the alleged acts had been performed in 1987 – far from being a child.

Pauw had also seen the first two of Minnie’s three manuscripts for his part of the book, and Malan’s name had not appeared in them.

With the knowledge we now have, Rapport should have dealt differently with our publication of the book’s allegations on Sunday 5 August 2018.

We therefore apologise to our readers, Barend du Plessis and the family members of Magnus Malan and John Wiley for the blunder.

Although it had always been a given that we and other media would report on the book, the extremely harmful nature of the alleged offences should have cautioned us in our manner of reporting, which should always aim to serve the truth and minimise damage.