Three Men Lay Sex Abuse-Related Charges Against Former Senior Journalist Coenie Slabber

By Riaan Grobler


The three men who have accused former Rapport arts editor Coenie Slabber of sexually abusing them when they were boys, have laid criminal charges against him at the police’s Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units in Cape Town.

Writer and columnist Herman Lategan, as well as another alleged victim, Sam*, laid charges on Tuesday. Writer, journalist and former Voëlvry Movement anti-apartheid protest singer Theunis Engelbrecht laid charges on Wednesday.

News24 is in possession of three affidavits from the three men.

Slabber was a prominent Afrikaans media figure in the 1970s to 1990s and held various senior positions at Rapport and Die Republikein in Namibia.

He was a celebrated arts critic and columnist. He was also at the centre of liberal Afrikaans writers’ struggle against the apartheid government’s censorship laws.

Lategan: It became a regular occurrence

Lategan alleges that, following several pleasant visits to Slabber’s Bloubergstrand flat when his personal circumstances were dire, Slabber came up behind him while he was brushing his teeth one night when he was 15, and fondled his penis.

He further alleges that Slabber entered his room that same night and performed oral sex on him.

“From then on it became a regular occurrence,” Lategan writes.

Lategan goes on to describe a number of alleged incidents of sexual abuse in his teenage years.

In one incident, Lategan says, Slabber sexually abused him in a car during a trip between Cape Town and Johannesburg while Slabber’s son was asleep on the back seat.

On another occasion, Lategan says, Slabber molested him at a house in Bezuidenhout Valley in Johannesburg where Slabber was staying with a fellow journalist.

He was also allegedly sexually abused while on a holiday in Spain with Slabber and his son.

Engelbrecht: I was groomed and abused

Engelbrecht alleged that he was groomed by Slabber at the age of 17, in 1982, when he published his first book of poetry, the critically acclaimed ‘n Gedig is so onskuldig soos ‘n eier (A poem is as innocent as an egg).

Engelbrecht relates that he was impressed by Slabber’s fame and influence and accepted an invitation to spend a weekend with Slabber at Sun City that year.

Slabber got into bed with him on the first night and allegedly performed oral sex on him, Engelbrecht writes.

“I was shocked, freaked out and disassociated from what was happening. It felt like it was happening to someone else.”

The following year, Slabber allegedly invited Engelbrecht to Cape Town to meet a young friend of his, who turned out to be Lategan.

Through Slabber, Engelbrecht and Lategan began corresponding. Engelbrecht accepted the invitation because he wanted to meet Lategan and experience Cape Town.

Engelbrecht says Slabber again allegedly performed oral sex on him, against his will and “without asking”. He again disassociated and went home three days earlier than planned.

These alleged events had a profound psychological effect on Engelbrecht, who at one point, broke a bottle and cut his face in an attempt to make himself “less attractive to ooms (uncles)”.

Sam: I was abused by a family friend

Sam alleges that, during the 1970s and 1980s, he was sexually abused by Slabber on several occasions. Sam’s father was friends with Slabber.

The first incident of sexual abuse apparently happened when Sam was 10 or 11 years old, between 1974 and 1976, when Slabber was married and living with his wife, two sons and a daughter in Windsor, Johannesburg.

 “My family had gone on a holiday and we stayed a night or two with [the Slabber family]. During the night, I became aware and was woken by somebody stroking my genitals. It was like being tickled. I could make out that it was Coenie, after a while. I was embarrassed and panicked because I didn’t know what was happening,” Sam states in his affidavit. This, he says, took place at the townhouse in Windsor.

According to Sam, he was again abused by Slabber at a flat in Braamfontein. He was 12 at the time. Slabber had by then been divorced or separated and Sam and his family stayed with him en route to their holiday.

Slabber allegedly “played with” the boy’s genitals.

“I would turn on my stomach in an attempt to make him stop, but he’d just roll me onto my back again. The next morning in the kitchen, he (Slabber) told my dad, in front of me, that I had crawled into his bed during the night. My dad scolded me and warned me that Coenie was a working person who needed his rest. I was furious because it was a lie and I couldn’t tell my father the truth,” Sam states.

According to Sam, he was again abused by Slabber during a holiday in Namibia in the winter of 1978, when he was 14 years old. The alleged events happened at a resort in Swakopmund. At the time, Slabber was working at Die Republikein newspaper in Windhoek. His two sons, who lived with their mother in Cape Town, accompanied Sam’s family on the trip.

“We stayed a couple of nights and during the night he’d come to my bed and abuse me.”

Slabber responds

News24 telephonically contacted Slabber about the alleged abuse. After the allegations were put to him, Slabber asked: “How did this come to your attention?” (” Hoe kom dit nou by jou uit? “)Slabber agreed to an interview at his flat in Bloubergstrand last week.

Slabber said he was surprised to be confronted about the allegations. “I am older than 80. I am really old, I am not a well-known person or newsworthy, and here you are telling me about [Lategan’s] allegations.

“I deny that I did anything criminal or malicious.”

In reaction to Engelbrecht’s allegations, Slabber said while he recalled writing a positive comment about Engelbrecht’s poetry in his weekly column, he did not remember taking Engelbrecht to Sun City and denied that he ever sexually abused him.

“I really can’t remember anything. I do remember writing about his poetry. In all honesty, I cannot recall that I invited him to Sun City, of all places, or that I molested him. I firmly deny that.”

In a written response, Slabber also denied Sam’s allegations with a terse “no”.

Because the matter is now being investigated by the FCS, the men can no longer speak to the media.

‘We feel a sense of freedom’

However, Lategan posted on Facebook: “We have opened a case with detectives at the sexual offences unit. I’ve had to remove all social media posts and I am not allowed to speak to the press as it could interfere with the investigation.

“This is a great step forward for those who have survived sexual abuse. The detectives are professional and clued up. We feel a sense of freedom.

“Thank you all for the wonderful support. I shall keep a low profile regarding this story until D-Day arrives for the accused. If you have been or are abused in any way, contact the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Violence Unit.

“Incidentally. We are not asking for money. Only justice.”

Ishmet Davidson, CEO of Media24, said the company condemned in the strongest possible terms any form of violence and abuse.

“We do not have any personnel documents on record for Coenie Slabber as he left Media24’s employee too long ago,” Davidson said.

Rapport and News24 are Media24 publications.

* Not his real name. Sam’s real identity is known to News24 and its lawyer, but he has requested to remain anonymous.

** News24 is continuing its investigation into Slabber. If you have information, send an email to

Source: News24

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