Were the Coloured boys of Bird Island made collateral damage to keep negotiations on track?

Did the silence of those on both sides of the political divide perpetuate the raping of the most vulnerable – namely our children?


Apartheid, the unending nightmare and ghost, continues to live among us, its callous wounds and scars ever so real penetrating our souls. Every day, victims of apartheid realise there are more than 365 rightful reasons why apartheid should be blamed for everything that has gone wrong in South Africa. When AfriForum’s Kallie Kriel argues apartheid was not bad, I want to vomit because such ignorance masked in arrogance and framed in propaganda revolts a common knowledge which no whitewashing will ever be able to obliterate.

This past weekend we learnt of a published book – The Lost Boys of Bird Island – co-authored by Mark Minnie, a former detective and Chris Steyn, an investigative journalist, that details a sordid affair of how apartheid’s most powerful minister Magnus Malan then in charge of its brutal Defence Ministry stands accused of having run a paedophile ring in which young essentially Coloured boys in the Port Elizabeth and Algoa Bay Areas were lured into.

According to the Rapport, most of the boys caught up in this claimed paedophile ring were Coloured and in their early teen years. They were flown by army helicopters accompanied by Magnus Malan, John Wiley, Dave Allen among others to Bird-Island, in the Algoa Bay area, approximately 53 km east of Port Elizabeth. The boys were treated to barbecue (braaivleis) and liquor after which they were sexually violated and assaulted. One of the reports among others confirm that on one occasion, a pistol was shoved up in the rectum of a boy, and a shot was fired apparently by Magnus Malan. The profusely bleeding boy was flown by helicopter to be treated in the previously white section of a nearby hospital. The ward was guarded by men in suits against the curious ears and prying eyes.

The authors claim the name of another former minister of the PW Botha apartheid regime. He unlike Malan who died at 81 is still alive and his name is withheld for legal reasons.

These allegations follow shortly on the claims of Liza Smit, daughter of the murdered Robert Smit, in which she told a Kwela audience that her parents were killed by Lang Hendrik van den Bergh as instructed by Prime Minister John Vorster, the predecessor of PW Botha.

For many, the dastardly acts of the apartheid regime while known have remained protected, shielded from public engagement. Even when these claims in this season are levelled, there are those who rush to conclude that nothing will come of the case and they are quick to claim the law as defence for their claims. Some simply dismiss the book with counterclaims that the records for these events have been destroyed hence these are mere allegations

The claims that Minnie and Steyn make warrant engaging 

  1. Firstly, while we may not have all the facts, it’s clear there is trouble in Afrikaner establishment politics. We may speculate as to what triggered the publishing of the book in both Afrikaans and English versions as released by Tafelberg Publishers. The commissioning publisher is Maryna Lamprecht, a non-fiction publisher at Tafelberg / NB Publisher in Cape Town and commissioning editor of the Lost Boys of Bird Island. There is no question that immense resources, time and money have gone into this project and we do not know who paid for the research and all that goes with it.

On another score, Naspers with its Rapport and sister newspaper City Press allocated more than significant space to this story. While the story in some circles was known for an elongated period of time, it in this season has new meaning and verve that warrants questions as to why there is again this type of resources put into it.

Is it the undoing of an era of the blue-eyed boys club and Stellenbosch crew, the same who at some point in apartheid-ruled as a National Party faction dubbed the ‘verligte’ group who were in favour of the negotiations with the enemy forces (liberation struggle organisations led by the ANC)?

We know that Magnus Malan, in particular, had a very significant role to play to keep the SADF (South African Defence Force) in line when General Constand Viljoen and the generals close to him threatened mutiny and a possible coup to derail negotiations.  Are we to surmise that in all probability scores are being settled?  Does all this point to trouble in Afrikaner establishment paradise?  Is money a part of this, we do not know but one may easily conclude some deals went wrong somewhere and somebody is cheesed off.

  1. Secondly, the claims are categoric that the victims of the misdeeds of this depraved bunch of apartheid hypocrites were those who share an identity of coloured and in this instance young boys. Apartheid’s trojan horse ‘coloured’ identity configuration is again confirmed as the object of the apartheid scorn. It is important to understand what this means in the greater scheme of things. Apartheid for its own reasons targeted those it bestowed this identity and thought it right to demean, annihilate and abuse coloureds.

What remains noteworthy is that the victims of the crimes of apartheid as always and specifically in this instance were those who share an identity of ‘Coloured’. Some claim the ring of friendship of those mentioned from the late John Wiley, Magnus Malan, Dave Allen etc, those whom the Naspers papers cites extends to people that include National Party minister Piet Koornhof.  There are those who claim while for Koornhof the interest was not Coloured boys his interest focussed on poor, desperate young coloured women. Incidentally, Koornhof’s son Dr. Gerhard Koornhof serves as a member of parliament for the ANC and is in this season President Ramaphosa’s parliamentary councillor.

On another level is what Malan and his sick cohorts stand accused of dissimilar to what Van Riebeek stands accused of with Krotoa more than 360 years ago? Is there violation different to what Sarah Baartman was subjected to by the French academic Cuvier? We know that there was a concerted effort to diminish this group from the forced removals to every aspect of what apartheid’s false identity in superiority claimed over the group. The fact that it is cast as a paedophile crime does not exonerate it as a race crime.

Does the apartheid state’s history and the identifying of its ‘client’ in Act 30 of 1950 Section C that declared people who always existed ‘coloured’ detail a unique place in its focus of the said victims’ of abuse in this and many other instances?

  1. Thirdly, why were these claims kept under wraps for so long? Who was complicit to the secret of these incidents on both sides of the divide? Why is there a reluctance to engage the surviving ex-apartheid minister as to his knowledge, involvement and claimed role in this? Rapport alludes to the fact that the identity of the surviving minister is known but withheld for legal reasons.

The News 24 article penned is by no one less than seasoned journalist Pieter Du Toit. Some claim he in the proverbial sense is from inside the belly of the beast (Afrikaner/ Nasionale Pers/Stellenbosch establishment). In its version, it fails to mention the name outright but leaves enough for those who read between the lines and are willing to research to arrive at a name. They confirm it was one who was tipped to succeed PW Botha. It is common knowledge that De Klerk was not the one to have been favoured, but was brought in by Pik Botha, apartheid’s last foreign affairs Minister. If we use these deductions it becomes easy to identify who the alleged surviving minister is.

Sure, the deaths of former minister John Wiley and the wealthy Dave Allen as again relayed in the Naspers newspapers, could not have been incidental or coincidental that it did not attract the attention of the then-National Party ministers who served in the Botha and later De Klerk regimes. A good start is to ask all surviving former National Party ministers to explain what they heard, may have known and overheard at the time and why they saw no need to engage the claims? What did De Klerk and Pik Botha know, since they as very senior National Party and State leaders of apartheid and part of a particular NP faction can hardly claim to have known nothing?

Is there a common denominator in the Bird Island scandal, and the illicit moving of billions of South African currency out of SA at a particular juncture in time? Some say there is and that has an identity of a former NP minister.

  1. In the fourth instance, we must know what will it take to lodge a criminal case in this season against the said minister and those who were complicit? We know this type of crime has no proscribing e period and therefore remains valid and prosecutable even to this moment. The validity of the claims can and should be tested in a court of law since there is a surviving member immanent in a former minister who is still alive.

Certainly, there is a case to be made and for the said minister to answer. If the NPA shows an appetite to charge others on the media invented crime of state capture informed by books written by Jacques Pauw and others, this known former minister equally can be charged at the hand of the book, “Boys of Bird Island”.

On another score, known progressive journalists like Jaques Pauw and Max du Preez as the alternate media then, we must hear if they heard or know anything and did they publicise on any of this? After all, they are veteran progressive journalists. Did the late Alistair Sparks know anything and did he allude to it somewhere? Sparks stands a giant in public opinion space and a progressive individual, certainly, he would not have been quiet about this injustice.

  1. Our fifth challenge vacillates on the role or absence the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had in this grave injustice. Did the Boys of Bird Island paedophile ring not reach the then-TRC? Certainly, while this crime may stand alone for its uniqueness of crime, for its specific overwhelming claims of a targeted identity of coloured, it stands as part of the apartheid atrocities of torture. It is and remains an apartheid race-based crime and therefore someone needed to come clean on this. We must know if the TRC entertained any information, confessions or allegations on this subject matter? Did the dossier of Bird Island ever serve in the TRC as part of the crimes apartheids bosses self-confessed on?
  2. Lastly and perhaps the more disturbing challenge resonates in the fact that we are also learning that the African National Congress with its head office at the then Shell House in Plein Street Johannesburg, was apprised of the ‘Boys of Bird Island’ atrocities. It is claimed former MK operative the late Rocky Williams informed the ANC Shell House leadership of the crimes of the National Party ministers, a crime against those that apartheid subjugated by robbing them of a common humanity.

This was, however, a crucial period and a critical stage of the negotiations. We know Williams brought a dossier to the ANC Shell House. This epoch coincided with a time when Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma were replaced of their respective chief-negotiator and intelligence roles by the sophisticated manoeuvring of Cyril Ramaphosa as Gayton McKenzie’s book ‘Kill Zuma by any Means’ shares. While Mbeki was replaced with Ramaphosa as chief negotiator, Zuma was replaced by Mosioua Lekota as Head of Intelligence.

The then-ANC deputy-head of intelligence, under Lekota was the late Joe Nhlanhla whom we are told was sorely upset about the apparent decision to keep this dossier under wraps and complained bitterly that information that he had about apartheid National Party Ministers are “kept under covers” by ANC leaders as he is quoted Lekota and Ramaphosa, in order to keep negotiations on track. Those who sat in the NEC meeting confirm Nhlanhla levelled this allegation in the NEC. We are not sure who exactly Williams gave his Bird Island dossier to in the ANC Intelligence Department. It is surmised he in all probability handed it to Nhlanhla. Those that know claim that Nhlanhla and Williams shared a close working relationship.

If Nhlanhla’s claims against those who ‘kept the files under covers’ are remotely true, it may mean that there is a culpability to be levelled against the ANC leadership for failing the Coloured boys of Bird Island and their families, in denying them justice while engaging in negotiations. Did the boys of Bird Island become collateral damage to keep negotiations on track? Did the ANC betray the very ones that made up part of the black definition of which the ANC’s national question so eloquently defines?

If it is true that the ANC was made aware of this crime, the natural questions are what efforts did the ANC engage to give effect to some form of justice for the victims of these heinous crimes?

Why did the ANC not register this with the TRC as part of the atrocities committed by apartheid and its political leadership? Where is the record of this Williams briefing, who did Williams communicate with? Are those who have been briefed owing us as South Africans answers to the silence and lack of leadership to act? Why was no effort made to express an ANC position on this? Did the ANC also fail the victims of this crime for its silence which may translate to latent compliance?

Did Rocky Williams’ dossier delivered to the ANC leadership of Shell House ever make it to the TRC, if not, why, and who was responsible that the TRC was denied to engage this important case that cuts on many levels, a case that has the most vulnerable as victims? Was this an unholy alliance of the then ANC and the National Party in which the boys were and remain to this day sacrificed?

We may never know the full details of this case but what is undeniable is that apartheid in all its manifestations remains an ungodly heinous and inhumane system that entitled those of a false white superior identity to exact their power and authority over those they defined as other, in which other means less.

This entitled power was so corrosive, cancerous and dastardly that it delivered the depravity of the targeted Coloured boys of Bird-Island. So sick and repugnant was apartheid that its most powerful minister Malan went to his grave having sexually abused the very identity apartheid created in social constructionism.

On another scale, does it show the brokenness of deceit and the psychology of fear masquerading in claimed superior power when its signpost was the abuse of the most vulnerable, and on the back of that claim itself, powerful?

There must be something so fragile and weak in any power that preys on the most vulnerable. Let us not forget Malan and his crew did this and then left and held their blonde babies tight to their chests, and on Sundays bellowed in high false holiness songs of a God, while their acts denied the true essence of the God they espoused.

May the unrepented sins haunt him and his ilk into the unknown endless channels of death and may his living accomplice muster the courage to come clean and throw himself at the mercy of God and the people.

May those who knew of this and remained silent on both sides of the then political divide, in this season muster the courage of their conviction to apologise for their complicit roles in this crime a people and its children. Let us collectively watch this space because the noose it appears is getting tighter and something will give.