Magnus Malan: Vile, venal enemy of the people

There was never any doubt about who called the shots. It was not those in the cabinet room. In the name of ‘total strategy’, he presided over a system of corruption on a truly epic scale

07 August 2018 - 06:09 By CHRIS BARRON
Magnus Malan
Magnus Malan
Image: Ambrose Peters

Former apartheid defence minister Magnus Malan, who has been accused of paedophilia in a new book, died on July 18 2011. Already then, the Sunday Times, in an obituary written by Chris Barron, spoke about his "fishing trips" with fellow cabinet minister John Wiley and a mutual business friend, Dave Allen, to Bird Island near Port Elizabeth. Below is the obituary that appeared on July 24, seven years ago.

Magnus Malan, who has died in Cape Town at the age of 81, was for 10 years arguably the most powerful man in South Africa.

PW Botha might had been the president, but Malan was the man he listened to.

Malan, who was Botha’s most trusted general before becoming his defence minister in 1980, told him that South Africa faced a “total onslaught”. Borrowing heavily from books he had read and passed on to Botha about the British experience in Malaya and the French experience in Algeria, Malan told him the only response that stood a chance against this was a “total national strategy”.

This involved handing power over every facet of life in the country — social, political and economic — to the military. This power was exercised through the National Security Management System, which brought policing, intelligence and civic affairs under the control of Malan’s generals and later the State Security Council, which incorporated a few cabinet ministers whom the generals listened to when it suited them.

The State Security Council generally met just before meetings of the cabinet. There was never any doubt about who called the shots. It was not those in the cabinet room.

For more on this story, please visit Times Select.

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