Analysis  >  Friday Briefing: Anatomy of a predator

Friday Briefing cover

The personal is political

In a popular essay published in 1970 titled "The personal is political", American feminist Carol Hanisch argued that many personal experiences can be traced to one's location within a system of power relationships. While Hanisch's essay focussed on men's power and women's oppression, the same argument can be made of any type of oppression that's rooted in social structures or inequality.

It is for this reason that in this week's briefing we deviate from our standard analysis on the big political story of the week, to focus on the personal and one of the biggest scourges our country faces: sexual abuse.

The story of how former teacher and media executive Willem Breytenbach allegedly sexually abused young men for 40 years and never got caught is not only the story of a sick man or of those he abused, although for some of his victims, it will be their only story. Rather, it is the story of the power abuse that plays itself out hundreds and thousands of times all over South Africa in many shapes and forms.

So what good does it do us to publish the sordid details of Breytenbach's depraved actions? Our hope is that we may learn something about the social and power dynamics that breed these kinds of misdeeds and embolden future victims to expose their tormentors.

In this week's briefing, Adriaan Basson and Jenna Etheridge speak to Breytenbach's alleged victims, Mandy Wiener interviews Deon Wiggett, the man behind the podcast that exposed Breytenbach and legal experts Sarah Hoffman and Emma Sadleir write about how Instagram amplifies the risk for children of coming across sexual predators.

Alet Law

News24 opinions editor

Willem Breytenbach

Anatomy of a sexual predator: How Willem Breytenbach got away for 40 years

Adriaan Basson and Jenna Etheridge

It is between Kroonstad and Three Anchor Bay that Willem Breytenbach spent the prime of his adult life - what now appears to be an undeniable fact - as a sexual predator and got away with it. For 40 years.


Willem Breytenbach

Hunting bullfrogs - The man behind My Only Story

Mandy Wiener

It's difficult to describe how anxious and jumpy Deon Wiggett is. It's not just now during the interview, but always. His legs do not stop bouncing, his hands fidget and his eyes flutter. If you've listened to the podcast, you'll know that he speaks in an awkward staccato, at times mulling each word, at others firing them off in rapid succession. He's self-deprecating and wry.



Instagram and the sexual predator

Sarah Hoffman and Emma Sadleir

Without overseeing what our kids are doing on Instagram, checking in frequently and having multiple conversations around your children's online activity, they are bound to make mistakes with long term serious psychological, reputational and even legal consequences.

My Only Story cover podcast

In this much-anticipated finale of a series of podcasts co-published by News24, Deon Wiggett recounts a chilling story of how he and other boys were allegedly sexually molested more than 20 years ago by Willem Breytenbach, who used to be a teacher at a prestigious school and later became an executive at Media24.


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