Esmare Weideman - The Lost Boys Of Bird Island

Esmaré Weideman

Esmaré has been at the helm of South Africa’s leading media company for nearly eight years, making her its longest serving CEO. “As editor-in-chief of Media24’s flagship weekly magazines Huisgenoot, YOU and DRUM, she was hailed as one of the best editors of her generation on the African continent”. (Excerpts from a Media24 press release on 31 July 2018.)

Nevertheless, the dictates of responsibility and accountability cut across the lines of standing and reputation of any person. Despite well-deserved praise for Ms. Weideman from her associates, the same standards also apply to her. The facts below speak for themselves, as well as fair comment and, due to unavailability of documentation, some logical and reasonable surmising.

Playboy, Huisgenoot and You Magazines, 1995.

(Note: Uncanny how difficult it is to find dates and detail about Ms. Weideman’s early life, dates, positions held, etc).

Esmaré Weideman joined Naspers’ Cape Town based Afrikaans daily “Die Burger” in the early nineties. In 1995 a fraudulently fabricated and slanderous article appeared in the then newly arrived and short-lived Playboy magazine, falsely implicating three former National Party Ministers in the alleged sexual abuse of underage boys on Bird Island. Media material, which as a dedicated media person, can be assumed to have come to her attention.

Shortly thereafter, the article was repeated in “Huisgenoot” and “You”. As a virulent opponent of the National Party Government and its Ministers, the articles certainly gave Weideman an exciting and satisfying read.

The Wiley family successfully lodged a complaint against all three magazines with the then Press Council. Its ruling ordered the three magazines to apologise.

In 2002, Esmaré became the editor of “Huisgenoot” and “You”, inheriting their unforgettable humiliating experience with their misguided Bird Island articles and apologies.

“The Lost Boys of Bird Island”

In 2017/18, it was déjà vu for Esmaré. As CEO of Media24, her book publishing subsidiary Tafelberg, with Maryna Lamprecht at the interface with the two co-authors, had produced a fraudulently classified as “Non-Fiction” book, which they titled “The Lost Boys of Bird Island”.

The central plot and theme of this fraudulent and untruthful book in its entirety, originated in the 1995 condemned Bird Island articles in Playboy, Huisgenoot and You, but elaborately enhanced by the two co-authors, with fabrications and lies.

This time, however, there was no apology risk for this ambitious and prejudiced publication boss, because book publishing had no Ombud-type overseer as newspapers and magazines still had.

Weideman knew that going to Court would be the only refuge for Barend du Plessis as the sole survivor of the three former National Party Ministers slandered in the book. The reassuring reality for Weideman was that she was sure that Du Plessis had neither the money nor lifespan for drawn-out litigation, while, with the backing of the colossal Naspers, she had plenty of both.

What’s more, her legal expert Willem de Klerk had further safeguarded her from any possible defamation litigation, by removing Barend du Plessis’ name from the book and replacing it with the pseudonym “The Third Minister”.

Yet, in order for Weideman to absolutely ensure that the book would implicate Barend du Plessis publicly by his real name, the book would use four unique characteristics to unmistakably describe him, enabling his immediate identification by readers and other media – while leaving Tafelberg and Media24 untouchable.

Therefore, with complete confidence she secured the approval of the Media24 Board for, under her watch, publishing the most sensationally damaging book ever against the National Party and at least three of its former ministers.

Let it be confirmed that via a written reply her publisher Maryna Lamprecht and her direct superior Eloise Wessels, in response to the irrefutable and utterly damning critique of the “The Lost Boys of Bird Island”, by the celebrated investigative journalist and credible author Jacques Pauw, not so long before its withdrawal, Weideman still adamantly “stood by every word in the book as the truth”.

This declaration of Weideman on behalf of Media24 boggles the mind and most likely will remain her preferable and unshakable conviction for time to come, despite what the fate of the book eventually turned out to become.

Vital question is, did she in this saga, consciously or “by accident” violate her hallowed and imperative fiduciary duties? (Paragraph 3 below may provide some insights into this question).

Is it likely that at the end of July 2018, having finally seen the book in print, ready to be launched as an exposé that she could be completely satisfied that it would decisively “deal” with three former ministers whom, personally and as representing the apartheid government, she so passionately despised from the time she had taken note of the dishonoured Playboy article? Was it to be such a rewarding and career-crowning feat, that she could happily vacate her position in a blaze of glory shortly after its release?

Did she not realise that, on the contrary, in effect, she had left her successor and functionaries previously reporting to her, to explain the inexplicable, of her having repeated a previous fatal mistake, as well as some other ones, in similar vein, referred to below?

What really is her present-day view of the veracity of the fraudulent and fabricated writings of co-authors Mark Minnie and Chris Steyn, with their now well-known proven dubious backgrounds and lack of any evidence for the book?

After all, less than two years after approving publication of the book, then as non-executive director of Media24, she had to support the withdrawal of “The Lost Boys of Bird Island” as a costly and humiliating huge error of judgement?

Did she not grossly violate her fiduciary obligations as CEO and three months later as Director of Media24, while in reality, at great cost to her employers, giving preference to her own prejudices and quests for recognition and short-lived financial success?

Some Other Weideman Legal Exploits in Drastically Truncated Format.

“Contempt of Court” and “Mala Fides”
Despite a Court order, Weideman published in “Huisgenoot” and “You” of 21 February 2008, articles falsely implicating singer Jurie Els in sexual abuse of a minor. In the “JUDGMENT” of the ”THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEAL OF SOUTH AFRICA” in the matter between CHRISTIAAN JURIE ELS Appellant, and ESMARÉ WEIDEMAN ...1ST Respondent, and MEDIA24 LTD 2ND Respondent, the following is a copy of the “Summary” of the judgement: “Court – contempt of – scope of order prohibiting publication of ‘article’ – breach was publication of cover, editorial and truncated article published together – mala fides inferred from content of editorial and cover”. Weideman personally had to pay a fine of R15 000 and Media24 one of R60 000. She thus officially was awarded the shameful distinction of having been “in contempt of court” and employing “mala fides” in her judgements.

Centurion Advocate Sues Weideman and Media24
In December 2006, an advocate from Centurion sued Weideman and her reporter Susan Colliers’ for R1 million damages for an article three years earlier, implicating him in a sexual relationship with a minor thirty years his junior, the outcome of which could not be traced at time of publication of this article.
Be that as it may, it seems like par for the course for Weideman to pursue this route of reporting, without first ascertaining irrefutable evidence, not only at the reputational and monetary expense of her employer and its public shareholders, but much more so, not caring about irreparable damage to fellow human beings.

“The Lost Boys of Bird Island”and The Court of Public Opinion
Weideman maliciously committed three character assassinations on respected former ministers. At Media24’s substantial monetary expense, loss of public esteem and severe humiliation, the Court of Public Opinion, also found Weideman guilty of approving and publishing a fraudulent and false book “The Lost Boys of Bird Island”. Driven by her ego and prejudice, she persisted in unscrupulously defending the fabrications and falsifications in the book, almost to the day of its withdrawal by her successor. In the final trenches, Ishmet Davidson displayed the courage and character she so conspicuously lacked in dealing with her scandalous error of judgement, by withdrawing the book from the market and apologising unreservedly to Barend du Plessis and the families of the late Magnus Malan and John Wiley.