EXCLUSIVE | 6 more men accuse media exec Breytenbach of sexual offences

2019-11-29 06:01
Willem Breytenbach. (Instagram)

Willem Breytenbach. (Instagram)

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Six more young men have accused former media executive Willem Breytenbach of sexual grooming, harassment and assault during his time at Media24 and as a digital entrepreneur.

The men came forward after the publication of Deon Wiggett's podcast, My Only Story, on News24 three weeks ago.

They spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity - some still fear Breytenbach, while others do not want their families to know what had happened to them or fear negative repercussions in their professional careers.

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This brings to 26 the number of men, known to News24 and Wiggett, who have accused Breytenbach of rape or sexual assault since 1990 when he was a teacher at Grey College in Bloemfontein.

He later taught at Willowmore and Langenhoven high schools in Riversdale, where he also allegedly committed acts of sexual assault against minors before joining Media24 in 1995 as education reporter at Die Burger.

The police are investigating the charges against Breytenbach and have received numerous complaints from some of his alleged victims.

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Three of the men, who spoke to News24, were interns or students when Breytenbach accosted them, while the others worked for Breytenbach's digital marketing firms, Lumico and Lightspeed Digital Media, in Cape Town.

Frederick: I just closed my eyes

Frederick* said he was 18 years old when he was hired as an intern by Breytenbach and a colleague to work for Die Burger's promotional department in 2004. "He would chase and challenge us. I remember how he told me to go for one of the guys in the department, because he had a large penis. He lived vicariously through the young guys."

Breytenbach would frequently take his colleagues out for drinks and pay for copious amounts of alcohol.

"After one of these parties, Willem invited us to his apartment in Green Point. We drank more wine. My car was in for repairs and I didn't have a lift. I wanted to get a taxi home, but Willem said I shouldn't worry, he would give me a lift.

"He turned me on my stomach and started massaging my back"

"After everyone had left, he asked me to stay a bit longer. 'I give the most amazing massages', he said. I said no thank you, I would rather get going. He insisted that he wanted to massage my shoulders. I said no again, but he insisted and started massaging me. He turned me on my stomach and started massaging my back.

"I was 18 and he was my manager and I figured that if I said no, it would have a negative impact on my career. So, I just closed my eyes as he pulled off my trousers and masturbated me. He kept saying, 'don't you want to wank me too', but I refused and just kept my eyes closed. When he was done, he took me to my flat."

Frederick said he felt "dirty and gross" afterwards, and that he was just another box on Breytenbach's list he had to "tick off".

At an arts festival where Die Burger sponsored a singing competition, Breytenbach did not book enough rooms for his team and told Frederick to share a room with a young singer. Breytenbach again told him the singer had a "large penis" and he had to report back over breakfast the next morning, which he did not do.

Stephan: I still feel dirty

Stephan* said he met Breytenbach as a schoolboy after he attended Media24's school newspaper project. He was 16 years old and started writing for Die Burger as a stringer.

Breytenbach showed a special interest in him and invited him to spend his holidays in the newspaper's newsroom. "His strategy is to immediately zoom in on your private life, to ask you who your friends are, what do you do over holidays, to become his friend. He had no boundaries."

When he was 18 and studying journalism in 2006, Breytenbach started asking him about his sexual preferences. Stephan was deeply traumatised by a series of emails sent to him by Breytenbach while the latter was seconded to head up business development for Naspers in India.

"He asked me what underpants I was wearing and said I had to imagine him touching my penis and testicles. I said I didn't like it, but he continued. He asked me if I was going to masturbate that night and even more invasive questions."

"For 13 years, I blamed myself. I wasn't even raped by him … I cannot imagine what those other men must be going through"

Stephan kept copies of the emails and showed it to a friend at Media24 at the time who advised him not to speak out against Breytenbach because it would damage his career.

Media24 has condemned Breytenbach's alleged actions and called on its employees to come forward with evidence and report it to the police.

Stephan realises today that Breytenbach had groomed him at the time. The experience had a deep impact on his private life. "I struggle to have a normal sex life because it makes me feel dirty. For 13 years, I blamed myself. I wasn't even raped by him … I cannot imagine what those other men must be going through."

When Stephan saw Breytenbach years later for a business meeting at Lumico, he (Breytenbach) "brushed my penis with his hand" and asked him why his jacket was so tightly closed. "Sexual harassment was commonplace at Lumico."

Joshua: I prayed for the lift to reach the ground floor

Joshua* said he started working for Breytenbach's Lumico in Pepper Street, Cape Town, in 2017. He was 20 years old and barely working there for a month when the first assault allegedly took place.

When he left the office at 18:00 one day, he saw Breytenbach sitting in a glass boardroom and waved him goodbye. The way he greeted infuriated Breytenbach to the extent that his secretary called Joshua and demanded that he return to the office.

"He berated me for my 'half-hearted wave' and 'mumbled greeting' and said we should greet each other properly and with respect." Breytenbach was extremely angry and shouted at Joshua in front of his colleagues. He told him to stay at the office until he (Breytenbach) was ready to leave.

"I was shocked and paralysed. I just wanted the lift doors to open"

When they left, Breytenbach's attitude "changed 180 degrees" and he told Joshua how handsome and good at his work he was. Inside the building's lift (Lumico was on the third floor), Breytenbach allegedly pushed Joshua in a corner and tried to kiss him.

"I was shocked and paralysed. I just wanted the lift doors to open. I prayed for us to reach the ground floor, but it felt like an eternity." Breytenbach walked out "as if nothing ever had happened".

Joshua was showered with gifts by Breytenbach and later realised "there was a price-tag". On a business trip to Johannesburg to meet with the Coleske brothers (they were a client of Lumico's), Breytenbach and Joshua were staying at the same hotel.

After dinner, Breytenbach asked him to join him in his room to finish a report for the next morning.

"Entering the room with my laptop under my arm, I found Breytenbach lying on his bed, only wearing pyjama pants, his legs spread out wide." Breytenbach pushed his laptop aside and asked Joshua why he was not getting an erection for him. "I'm not into penetration, but I'm good at oral sex," he said, allegedly stroking the victim's neck with his fingers.

Breytenbach then allegedly tried to kiss him and forced his hand into Joshua's pants to grab his penis. "No Willem," he said before pushing Breytenbach away, grabbing his laptop and leaving the room.

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The next morning at breakfast, Breytenbach "acted as if nothing had happened … he was the friendliest guy and just went about his normal way".

A few weeks later, at an arts festival in the Northern Cape, Breytenbach again allegedly stuck his hand into Joshua's pants to touch his penis. "He did this in front of other people, and I don't know if they saw. I ran to the bathrooms and wanted to go home."

Joshua told Breytenbach a lie and said there was blood in his stool; he wanted to get back to Cape Town. "Breytenbach scolded me for being sexually immoral and said it was because I was 'getting around' too much."

He resigned with immediate effect from Lumico and although Breytenbach told him he could not leave - he still had to work his months' notice - Joshua left.

It is now two years later, and he is still suffering emotionally after what happened to him. "Willem said without him, we are nothing and that I will never get another job. I will prove him wrong," said the man who is now a law student.

Bradley, Gideon and Martin: Instagram pictures and voice notes

Bradley, Gideon and Martin (all pseudonyms) said they were not raped or sexually assaulted, but Breytenbach allegedly groomed them and tested them with jokes and lewd requests to see what would happen.

Bradley* said he was only 17 when Breytenbach appointed him from an intern to a senior, permanent position at Lumico. They met on Instagram – allegedly a favourite hunting ground of young, gay men for Breytenbach - when he was still living abroad.

Bradley met Breytenbach with three young Lumico employees at a restaurant in Mossel Bay in 2018. Breytenbach told him privately that he was in an intimate relationship with one of the young men (who was 21 at the time) and that his life partner did not know about the affair and they should keep it hush.

"I still lived in Mossel Bay but was asked to come into Lumico's head office in Cape Town more frequently, where I lived in a backpacker's lodge close to Pepper Street. I would be called into lots of meetings with Willem in the boardroom."

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'Jimmy', or former high school teacher and senior Media24 executive Willem Breytenbach, has been on the run since revelations of his alleged sex crimes were published. This is how the drama unfolded.

Breytenbach used to tell him about intimate details of his relationship with the younger employee and asked him not to flirt with the young man. "When he sat next to me, he always made sure that his leg was touching mine.

"He would chat to me on private Instagram and send me messages that I looked nice today, how attractive I was or pictures of me at work. I was 17 at the time, I couldn't tell him to stop because it would have caused an issue at work. I just had to say, 'thank you' and remain neutral."

Bradley remembers that Breytenbach had a second cellphone his life partner Danie van Rooyen did not know about. "His husband never saw the phone and there was panic (to hide the phone) when Danie came to the office."

Breytenbach would take pictures of himself without a shirt and send them to Bradley over private Instagram, with messages like "I miss you". He also introduced a 15-year old boy to Bradley and his colleagues who was allegedly struggling because his parents did not want to accept the fact that he was gay.

Gideon* was a social media boffin and said he was in awe of Breytenbach's contacts in the Afrikaans music industry. Breytenbach flew up to Johannesburg to interview him and told him he could come down to Cape Town and stay with him and his life partner for a month or two.

But Gideon* was warned by colleagues in the industry about Breytenbach's predatory ways and saw red lights. "He wanted to have video calls to chat about possibilities. He knew I was young and looking for work. Then he started sending voice notes at midnight or at 01:00 and asked me to send pictures of myself in my underwear. He wanted to see what underwear I was wearing."

'Sex, booze and nice things'

Breytenbach was shocked when he heard Martin* had a girlfriend. Martin worked at Lumico and noticed a clear pattern of young men, fresh out of high school, being appointed into senior positions by Breytenbach.

"Nothing happened to me, but he asked me very personal questions about my relationships and showed me pictures of other guys." He made up an excuse to get out of a weekend "bonding trip" with Breytenbach and his colleagues, to which Breytenbach responded over the phone with: "Just remember that you had promised me sex, booze and nice things."

Breytenbach has refused to comment on any allegations. Last Friday, he told News24 his lawyer would react at an appropriate time.

* Not their real names

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 about him or his whereabouts, send an email to tips@24.com.

Read more on:    willem breytenbach  |  my only story  |  crime  |  rape  |  sexual assault

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