The rise and fall of an alleged sexual predator – story of Willem Breytenbach

More survivors, some of them allegedly sexually assaulted as recently as last year – are stepping forward to speak out against former Media24 executive and teacher Willem Breytenbach.

Allegations are piling up against Breytenbach, who has been exposed as a sexual predator in My Only Story, a weekly podcast by copywriter Deon Wiggett which is co-published by News24. The final of four episodes was published on Thursday.

Breytenbach is holed up at his mother’s house in Reebok in the Southern Cape, while the police continues its investigation into growing complaints of sexual assault against minors and young men spanning years. He has declined to comment to several journalists.

Wiggett has accused Breytenbach of raping him in 1997, when he was 16 years old. At the time, Breytenbach was a journalist at Die Burger and in charge of a school newspaper project for Media24.

During his investigation, Wiggett discovers that Breytenbach had been a teacher at three schools before joining the media industry.

FOLLOW THE STORY | A podcast series and live investigation into a sexual predator

In his fourth podcast, Wiggett accuses Breytenbach of the sexual abuse and/or rape of more boys at Willowmore High School in the Eastern Cape, and Langenhoven High School in Riversdale, between 1991 and 1994.

He also traces a 20-year-old man who alleges that he was raped and/or sexually assaulted by Breytenbach while he was working for him at Cape Town digital marketing firm Lumico between 2017 and 2018.

At Willowmore, Breytenbach moved into the school’s dormitory and “started helping himself to the children of the region”, according to Wiggett.

A man who is now in his 40s has accused Breytenbach of sexually molesting him when he was a pupil at the school.

Two former Langenhoven High School pupils have brought criminal charges against Breytenbach for several alleged incidents of rape while he was a teacher at the school.

‘Exceptional teacher’

According to Wiggett, a further four former pupils of the school have since spoken out about their alleged abuse at the hands of Breytenbach.

At all three schools, Breytenbach taught Afrikaans and was actively involved with the school newspapers, which Wiggett describes as a “conveyor belt” for potential victims.

Former Langenhoven principal Gerrit Visser told News24 that Breytenbach was an exceptional teacher.

“I can say with certainty that I never received a single complaint about Breytenbach. He was an extremely competent and enthusiastic teacher. He managed to develop the school newspaper from a low-level rag to an award-winning newspaper at national level.

“I never received any complaint relating to the allegations that are now surfacing,” Visser said. Grey College headmaster Deon Scheepers and former headmaster Dr Michau Heyns earlier denied knowledge of the accusations.

School newspaper project

At Die Burger, Breytenbach had managed to successfully bring back the Nasionale Skoolkoerantprojek (national school newspaper project), which saw him visiting schools throughout the Western and Eastern Cape from 1995.

This is where he and the then-16-year-old Wiggett crossed paths in the summer of 1996, in Stellenbosch. Wiggett alleges that Breytenbach groomed and then raped him in his flat in Cape Town.

A former graphic designer at Die Burger wrote an open letter in Rapport on Sunday in which he alleges that Breytenbach had raped him in the company toilets in 2004.

Media24 and its holding company, Naspers, have expressed shock at the allegations of sex crimes against Breytenbach, who served in various senior positions in both companies. Media24 CEO Ishmet Davidson has launched an internal investigation and has encouraged former and current employees to come forward with information.

After initially saying that no complaints against Breytenbach were found on his company record, Media24 informed its employees that “new information” was forthcoming after News24 published Breytenbach’s identity.

‘I can’t speak to you’

Almost immediately after the publication of the initial podcast on November 7, Breytenbach, without initially being named, closed all his social media accounts and disabled his cellphone number.

Breytenbach asked most of his employees at his company, Lightspeed Digital Services, to resign, and left his Cape Town house for Reebok, a small beach side town close to Mossel Bay in the southern Cape.

Warrant Officer Rowan Andrews is the investigating officer in the case.He has confirmed to News24 that the criminal investigation into Breytenbach is ongoing and has asked members of the public with information that can assist the case to contact him on 082 729 8155 or 021 590 1001.News24 is continuing its investigation into Breytenbach. If you have information, send an email to tips@24.com.

 

Re-published ad verbatim as on News24

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