A book exposing an alleged paedophile ring run by top-ranking ministers in apartheid-era South Africa has been pulled from shelves because allegations against one of the men could not be proven, the publishers said.
The Lost Boys of Bird Island accuses four powerful ministers and a wealthy businessman of abducting or picking up teenage boys off the street and airlifting them in military helicopters to Bird Island, a nature reserve off the coast of Port Elizabeth, to be sexually abused.
The book was written by investigative journalist Chris Steyn and former police detective Mark Minnie, who was found dead less than two weeks after its publication in August 2018 with a gunshot wound and a suicide note.
NB Publishers issued an apology on Tuesday to former finance minister Barend du Plessis, who although not named in the book, they said was identifiable.
“While attempts were made to conceal his identity, NB Publishers accepts that the books contain sufficient information to identify Mr Du Plessis as an involved party,” it said in statement.
“The contested statements could not be verified independently.”
The publishers said they “unreservedly” apologised for the publication of the allegations, and for the “infringement of his dignity and impairment of his reputation, as well as the emotional distress this caused him”.
The book does, however, name former defence minister Magnus Malan – who died in 2011 – as part of the paedophile network that operated during white-minority rule in the 1980s.
Apartheid ended with the 1994 election that brought Nelson Mandela to power as South Africa’s first black president.