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In 1934 Colin Legum began working at the Sunday Express in Johannesburg. Later he became the newspaper's political correspondent. He joined the South African Labour Party and, in 1942, he was elected to the Johannesburg City Council.
In 1951 he joined the UK's Sunday Observer. He served as the newspaper's diplomatic editor and its Commonwealth correspondent. In 1960 he married Margaret Jean Roberts. In 1964 Colin and Margaret Legum published South Africa: Crisis for the West, in which they argued for economic sanctions against the South African government to bring an end to apartheid. In 1968 Colin Legum became editor of the annual Africa Contemporary Record. Legum was the author of over 20 books including Congo Disaster (1960), Pan-Africanism: A Brief History (1962), and Africa: A Handbook of the Continent (1962).
In 1991, the Legums returned to South Africa from Great Britain, where they had been in political exile. They continued to work as journalists, authors and academics, and to travel extensively. In 1999 Colin Legum authored and published Africa Since Independence.
Colin Legum died on 8 July 2003, aged 84. He was survived by his wife (who died in 2007), three daughters and grandchildren.
A large collection of Colin Legum's archive was donated to the University of Cape Town's Special Collections library after his death.