Tainted former Rapport arts editor Coenie Slabber dies

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Coenie Slabber, right, shortly before News24 interviewed him on 10 March 2020.
Coenie Slabber, right, shortly before News24 interviewed him on 10 March 2020.
Aljoscha Kohlstock, News24
  • Former Rapport arts editor Coenie Slabber died in the early hours of Tuesday.
  • Slabber was a prominent Afrikaans media figure between the 1970s and 1990s.
  • In 2020, three men laid charges against Slabber for allegedly sexually abusing them when they were boys.

Coenie Slabber, a former Rapport arts editor accused of sexually abusing young boys for many years - an allegation he vehemently denied - died in his sleep in Cape Town in the early hours of Tuesday.

Slabber's former colleague of 14 years Eddie Botha, as well as two other sources close to Slabber who did not want to be named, confirmed Slabber's death to News24.

He died in his sleep in his flat in Bloubergstrand and his body was found on Tuesday morning. The cause of Slabber's death could not be confirmed.

Slabber was a prominent Afrikaans media figure between the 1970s and 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.

However, in March last year, News24 reported that three men laid criminal charges against Slabber at the police's Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit in Cape Town.

Writer and columnist Herman Lategan, author and former Voëlvry Movement anti-apartheid protest singer Theunis Engelbrecht as well as another alleged victim Sam* accused Slabber of sexually abusing them when they were minors.

At the time, 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 on 10 March last year.

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."

'Now that you are dead, I forgive you'

On Wednesday, Lategan said he was especially sad about Slabber's family and the damage he caused them.

"In the [criminal] case that three of us filed against him, we did not want money. We also did not want him to go to jail - he just had to sit at a table with us and say sorry. He refused to do so.

"So, rest in peace, Coenie, you have meant a lot to many people, to me too, but sex with children who cannot give consent is rape.

"Now that you are dead, I forgive you unconditionally. Rest in peace," Lategan said. 

Engelbrecht declined to comment.

Sam* told News24 he would now share his ordeal privately with family and close friends, but not in public.

Two of Slabber's children would not comment when approached by News24 on Wednesday.

Police were still investigating the allegations at the time of Slabber's death and the matter never made it to court.

Sporadic social media posts by former colleagues and friends paid tribute to Slabber.

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.

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