On Aug. 5, a searing book came out alleging that in late apartheid-era South Africa, government officials regularly took boys to an island near the city of Port Elizabeth and sexually abused them. A week later, one of its authors, former policeman Mark Minnie, was found dead.
According to News24, police found what appears to be a suicide note alongside Minnie’s body. National news sources point out that the death echoes the apparent suicides of two of the people accused of abuse, cabinet member John Wiley and businessman Dave Allen, who died within two months of each other, in 1987. Allen was found dead the day he was scheduled to appear in court; he had recently been arrested for having sex with minors and possession of child pornography.
One of Minnie’s relatives, Tersia Dodo, told News24 that the family believes the suicide, and the note found at the scene, were staged. The publisher of Minnie’s book, Tafelberg, issued a statement on Tuesday that supported this outlook. “In the week preceding his death, Minnie had said nothing to Tafelberg to indicate that he might harm himself,” the publisher wrote. ”He was excited about the publication of the book and the disclosure of allegations which, according to him, had been covered up for thirty years. He said that the book was ‘only the beginning’ of the process to have justice prevail for the victims….”
The Lost Boys of Bird Island, co-written with journalist Chris Steyn, is a shocking investigation into an alleged ring of sexual assault in the 1980s. The abuses, say the writers, were organized by a group of white apartheid ministers, and most of the victims were “coloured” teen boys, a legal term in apartheid South Africa designating people who were a mix of racial ancestries. They allege that government officials took boys to Bird Island and other locations around Port Elizabeth, then raped and molested them. The book also makes the case that there was a subsequent government cover-up.
The authors implicate four people as ring-leaders of the scandal: Wiley, Allen, former defense minister Magnus Malan, who died in 2011, and an unnamed minister who is still alive. The authors cast doubt on the official reports that say Wiley and Allen died of suicide, suggesting they were murdered in organized hits by Malan.