This post is the first of a number of planned contributions all under the heading Verwoerd, Malan and a case of Aggravated Assault detailing incidents within two weeks, which had a dramatic impact on my life.
Part 1 will deal with the book “The Lost Boys of Bird Island” and a chapter in it that brings the credibility of one of the book’s authors, Mark Minnie, into question. I immediately bought the book upon release and finished reading it within one day. The accusations made therein of the involvement of at least three National Party (NP) Ministers (one of which the authors don’t name in the book based on legal advice received but which clearly reference Barend du Plessis) are indeed serious and warrants further investigation. I, however, found it a difficult book to read in that it jumps between the two author’s input sometimes without context and mostly without dates. It further contains no bibliography or endnotes, and it is therefore not possible to independently verify the respective stories of the two authors.
Even when the authors quote sources like actual articles published in “The Huisgenoot” or “Playboy SA” these are not referenced by the authors. The book is, in my view, therefore premised mostly on hearsay. Many an anonymous source are quoted but seldom are the identity of these contributors revealed. In one particularly striking paragraph (see postscript 1 below), a matter is stated as a fact followed only a few words later with the words apparently!
Because of the above, I remain rather skeptical of the main claims made in the book, but I’m open to being convinced otherwise by hard facts. That something was amiss and that Dave Allen, and possibly even John Wiley, had a case to answer for what happened at the time is clear, but the book contains no verifiable facts that any other NP Minister were also involved.
In chapter 22 of the book, Minnie writes about a search conducted of an Inkhata Hostel, which the later chapter 24 places within the timeframe of 1988/89. Upon reading this chapter, the hair on my arms stood up because what he describes in it, I experienced first-hand in a search on an Inkhata hostel as an army camp conscript, the only problem being that this search took place in 1991 and not 1988/89.
The following is what Minnie writes in chapter 22 about the search of the Inkhata Hostel that according to the timeline of the book took place in 1988/89:
“The next evening some serious brass are hanging around the parade ground. These are genuinely high-ranking dudes – colonels and brigadiers. Castles and stars line the epaulets of their uniforms. The briefing brings everything to light, and I’m not amused.
We’re going to move into a hostel occupied by miners who support the Inkatha Freedom Party. The government uses Inkatha fighters in a clandestine way to attack ANC supporters, all in an attempt to weaken and derail the liberation movement. Money and weapons are channeled to Inkatha to assist them in destabilising their perceived ‘foe’.
Now we’re commanded to conduct a search of the compound. Why? They’re meant to be our allies, these Inkatha guys. It’s all politics, I guess. We move out in convoy style. Very impressive – until we reach the hostel. Waiting to greet us in full battle dress are more than a thousand impis, Zulu warriors armed with traditional assegais and shields. They heard that we were coming and are now demonstrating that they disapprove of our entering the compound.
It’s a Mexican stand-off. Some Inkatha leaders and our top brass begin exchanging words in no-man’s-land. Zulu warriors assume their traditional battle crouch and raise their spears, shields covering their torsos. Chanting begins. Cops are on edge, fingers on triggers. Rifles at the ready, we’re waiting for the command that will surely unleash untold bloodshed. There can be only one winner.
Eventually, the discussion between leaders comes to an end. The Inkatha guys allow us to enter the hostel. We search for hours and find nothing – no guns, not even a little bit of marijuana. All’s well that ends well. We depart, both sides happy.
What a load of bullshit, I think to myself. The Inkatha fighters knew we were coming. That’s why there was nothing to find. It was all just a show to prove to the ANC that it’s not only their compounds that get searched. A sham display that allows local politicians to score some brownie points in the outside world.”
Compare the aforementioned to the following chapter in the unfinished manuscript of a book that I started writing way back in 2008 about my experiences in the Munsieville Township outside of Krugersdorp, where I worked as Municipal Manager from 1987 to 1992:
“Doing an army camp
I was unofficially exempted from doing any army camps while working in Munsieville. The argument was that I was doing my bit by working in a township and that to call me up would serve no purpose. When receiving call-up papers for a camp, all I had to do was to defer to the Colonel of Witwatersrand Command, and he would release me officially from doing the camp.
One late Friday in 1991 call-up papers arrived for a weekend army camp. I tried to get hold of the Colonel, but he was not available. It was only a weekend camp, and I reported for duty at Doornkop outside of Soweto. At the time violence flared in most hostels with migrant Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP) workers clashing violently with the ANC aligned comrades in the townships. Munsieville was fortunately spared from this type of violence as it had no hostel within its borders.
It was clear that something major was up as many high-ranking army officers were in attendance. While cleaning our R4-rifles, we were briefed about the purpose of our mission. We were told that President FW de Klerk lost his patience with the violence emanating from the hostels and decided to take decisive action to rid them of dangerous elements responsible for the violence and weapons.
One such hostel was George Goch situated in City Deep not far from the famous Ellis Park rugby stadium where the Springboks won the 1995 World Cup final. The hostel was named after the 1904/5 Mayor of Johannesburg and was built to accommodate mainly Zulu speaking migrants who worked on the mines of the Reef.
Our task was to form a protective cordon around the hostel, with the South African Police being deployed at the same time to enter and search the hostel for criminals and dangerous weapons. I noticed that the Friday fell on a month-end payday and had reservations about the feasibility of the operation given this circumstance but only being a ‘troepie’ (ordinary soldier) doing camp duty I kept my concerns to myself.
We were deployed in the early hours of Saturday morning, but unlike planned, the SAP members arrived an hour late. As we deployed, I noticed that most of the hostel’s residents were still awake and in party mood having used their meager income to purchase and consume booze. When the hostel residents noticed the army deploying, and in the absence of the SAP entering and searching the hostel, the mood turned nasty, and they started barricading the entrance to the hostel.
The Police eventually arrived. Tires where set alight and a tense standoff ensued. All the while the army kept the cordon around the hostel whilst the Police started negotiating with the residents to end their barricade. In what was my only army action I placed under arrest two residents who tried to flee the hostel during the siege.
After a further two to three hours, the operation was called off as a total failure, and the police went their way, and we retreated to the Doornkop army base where we were demobilised and released from any further camp duty. Great was my wife’s surprise when I woke her up on the Saturday morning in our Krugersdorp house with a cup of coffee as she expected me back only late on Sunday.”
The similarities between the two descriptions are striking, and in my mind, there is very little doubt that we are talking about one and the same incident which most definitely took place in 1991 and not 1988/89 as per the book. The only difference is that as a member of the army, I know why the Inkhata hostel residents knew that the police were coming and that’s because the SAP botched the operation and arrived an hour late and after the army already surrounded the hostel.
Apart from the similarities between the two incidents, there are other compelling reasons why the search could only have taken place post-1990 and therefore not in 1988/89 as alleged. The African National Congress (ANC) was disbanded on 2 February 1990, and there was no reason for the then NP government to try and please the ANC before 1990 and specifically in 1988/89 as alleged by Minnie. The ANC also only started to put pressure on de Klerks NP government to disarm Inkhata members from 1991/92 onwards, which calls reached a crescendo following what has become known as the Boipatong Massacre on 17 June 1992.
Minnie follows chapter 22 up with incidents described in chapters 23 and 24, claiming that he and his girlfriend were the targets of the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) to get rid of them both, without any evidence and therefore merely speculation. In chapter 25 he writes of his return to Port Elizabeth upon his request, and a conversation with his commanding officer in which the Brigadier said the following:
“It’s on good authority I’ve been told that they want you out, Max. At least for a while. People are nervous. Hell’s bells, son, you know what I’m getting at. The president of the country is actively involved in keeping this story under wraps. You need to understand the seriousness of this situation.’ He tells me that a scandal of this nature would rip the National Party apart.
The Progressive Federal Party is making great strides in unseating the Nats, and impropriety of this magnitude could tip the scale in favour of the PFP in the next election. And apart from that, there is the disgraceful depravity of it all. That these powerful men who claim to be protecting the country are child rapists shatters the illusion of their superiority.”
The above and the specific reference to the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) sets the events of chapters 23 to 25 squarely in the 1988/89 timeframe as the PFP was dissolved in April 1989 when they merged with a few other parties to form the Democratic Party (DP), the forerunner of the current official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
In an article in the Daily Maverick on 23 August 2018 titled Secrets, lies, cover-ups everywhere – here are some of the facts surrounding the entire sordid saga Marianne Thamm writes as follows:
“The allegations, should they ever have been made public, would either have sounded the death knell to the apartheid state or considerably weakened its credibility and hold over the white minority, especially in an election year. The revelations would also no doubt have changed or affected the trajectory of South Africa’s political future and the survival of the National Party itself.
The National Party, on 30 January 1987, had announced a whites-only general election to be held on 6 May. March 1987, when the docket was stolen from Minnie’s office in Port Elizabeth on the instruction of PW Botha (as has been confirmed by a former colonel in the South African police to Rapport’s Herman Jansen) was the same month the National Party was due to announce its list of candidates. The then Minister of Environmental Affairs, John Wiley, had hoped to appear on that list.
Wiley “committed suicide” on 29 March 1987 after an hour-long telephonic conversation with PW Botha the night before. The previous month, Wiley’s close friend, PE businessman and diver, Dave Allen, who had scored a highly lucrative Bird Island guano concession (which would have been approved by Wiley), “committed suicide” after Minnie had arrested him on charges of sexually assaulting minors (as the charge was at the time) and for the possession of pornography.”
The above narrative explains the importance of placing the search of the Inkhata hostel and the alleged attempt on the life of Minnie and his girlfriend also within the timeframe of 1987 to 1989 as opposed to 1991. As I, however, explained above the search definitely only took place in 1991 and I’m willing to subject myself to a lie detector, so confident am I of the facts.
The question arises, therefore, why Minnie wanted to assert that the search on the Inkhata hostel had taken place in 1988/89 as well as how this affects his overall credibility and what’s alleged in the book? Perhaps he simply misjudged himself with the actual dates, but I highly doubt this.
I can only guess, but strongly suspect that the search and subsequent alleged assault on his life and that of his girlfriend only fits into the rest of the events as described in the book if these took place in 1988/89. This assertion is further borne out by the emphasis placed by Marianne Thamm on the period of 1987 to 1989 as being central to the theme of the book and all the events described therein.
If the events happened later namely in 1991 and not 1988/89 then –
- Minnie’s transfer to the Soweto riot unit had nothing to do with the Bird Island investigation he had been working on in 1987 to 1989, but was purely for operational police reasons given that the political unrest was at its highest in the Soweto area in 1991/92,
- Then the claims of an assault on his life were just one of a multitude of incidents where militants shot at police officers in Soweto in the early 1990s,
- Then the incident where his girlfriend’s car had caught fire was because it was a very old model as described by Minnie himself in the book, and
- Then his return to Port Elizabeth was simply a routine police transfer based on Minnie’s request.
The above raises serious doubts about Minnie’s credibility and what he and the other author, Chris Steyn, alleges happened in the book, however, for me, this is but one of many important unanswered questions that remain about the validity of the allegations in the book. Steyn in her 2006 book “Published and be Damned” already made most of the allegations contained in the new book, but she did not name Malan nor du Plessis. By 2006 nearly 20 years have already elapsed after the alleged sexual assault yet none of the victims came forward then. Why also the reluctance to publish the name of Barend du Plessis if the two authors are so confident of the allegations made in the book. Another critical question to ask is why nobody is calling for the arrest of the twin brothers who raped Minnie in his youth. He clearly describes the incident and even names his two attackers and the other people present at the time the incident happened.
When I first posted on Facebook what I knew about the 1991 search of the George Goch hostel, some people attacked me and called me a racist, others claimed that I’m on the payroll of members loyal to the former South African Defence Force (SADF) and a well-known feminist that all that I ever do is to defend white people and specifically white males as I believe that white people can’t do anything wrong! This when all I’m after is the truth in this sordid affair, even if this might prove me wrong in the end.
In the next post, I will write about an attack on my Dad and Stepmother a week or so ago and which left them seriously injured and traumatized. I’m seeking answers to the question why this vicious attack, and many others that are happening regularly, can’t be viewed as a hate crime when an incident like the coffin case received widespread attention and condemnation as being racists in nature. In the post after that, I will write about my role in exposing the fake radio advert of the Apartheid Museum which earned the producers TBWA Hunter Lascaris a Loerie award.
Postscript 1: Contradictory statement in chapter 28 of the book – “Contributing to the success of the cover-up was the fact that some of the original state documents and files on the case were apparently among the countless papers deliberately destroyed in the run-up to the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.”
Postscript 2: Some of those that criticised me on Facebook pointed out that the police also conducted searches of hostels in the townships before 1990. That is, of course, true but the searches then had a crime-prevention focus rather than a specific overriding political goal like the search in 1991 that I describe herein, searches done before 1990 would not have been done to please or pacify the ANC or the outside world as per Minnie (….scoring “brownie points in the outside world”), these searches did not involve a large number of high-ranking officers of the army and/or the police other than those who commanded the search operation, and the police before 1990 would have been more careful to not target only specific Inkhata hostels. Also, such criticism does not address the many similarities between what Minnie describe in the book and the hostel search I was involved in, in 1991.
Postscript 3: For those that might feel that I’m insensitive to the family of Mark Minnie following his apparent suicide that is still under investigation, I specifically held back a week or so in finishing and publishing this blog post out of respect for them. I also publically and on social media expressed my sympathy with the Minnie family and wished them God’s strength and guidance in these difficult times.
Postscript 4: I have forwarded a letter to the Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport setting out in summary format what I describe in this blog post, but they have to date failed to publish it. I have enquired from the editor Waldimar Pelser as to the reasons for the non-publication but is yet to receive any reply. It might be published in the said newspaper tomorrow, but I have nevertheless decided to go ahead with my blog post on the matter.