Magnus Malan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Magnus Malan
Magnus Malan circa 1990.
Minister of Defence
In office
Prime MinisterP. W. Botha
Preceded byP. W. Botha
Succeeded byRoelf Meyer
Personal details
Magnus André de Merindol Malan

(1930-01-30)30 January 1930
Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
Died18 July 2011(2011-07-18) (aged 81)
Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
Political partyNational
Magrietha Johanna van der Walt
(m. 1962)
Alma materUniversity of Pretoria
OccupationPolitician and military chief
Civilian awardsOrder for Meritorious Service OMSG
Military service
AllegianceSouth Africa
Years of service1950–1980
CommandsChief of the South African Defence Force
Chief of the Army
Western Province Command
South African Military Academy
Battles/warsOperation Savannah
Military awardsStar of South Africa SSAG Southern Cross Decoration SD Southern Cross Medal SM Pro Patria Medal (South Africa) ' Good Service Medal ' Good Service Medal ' Permanent Force Good Service Medal '

General Magnus André de Merindol Malan SSA, OMSG, SD, SM, MP (30 January 1930 – 18 July 2011) was a South African military figure and politician during the last years of apartheid in South Africa. He served respectively as Minister of Defence in the cabinet of President P. W. Botha, Chief of the South African Defence Force (SADF), and Chief of the South African Army. Rising quickly through the lower ranks, he was appointed to strategic command positions. His tenure as chief of the defence force saw it increase in size, efficiency and capabilities.[1]

As P.W. Botha's cabinet minister, he posited a total communist onslaught, for which an encompassing national strategy was devised. This entailed placing policing, intelligence and aspects of civic affairs under control of generals. The ANC and SWAPO were branded as terrorist organizations, while splinter groups (UNITA and RENAMO) were bolstered in neighbouring and Frontline States.[1] Cross-border raids targeted suspected bases of insurgents or activists, while at home the army entered townships from 1984 onwards to stifle unrest. Elements in the Inkhata Freedom Party were used as a proxy force, and rogue soldiers and policemen in the CCB assassinated opponents.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Malan's father was a professor of biochemistry at the University of Pretoria[2] and later a member of parliament (1948–1966) and Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees (1961–1966) of the House of Assembly. He started his high school education at the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool but later moved to Dr Danie Craven’s Physical Education Brigade in Kimberley, where he completed his matriculation. He wanted to join the South African armed forces immediately after his matriculation, but his father advised him first to complete his university studies. As a result of this advice, Malan enrolled at the University of Stellenbosch in 1949 to study for a Bachelor of Commerce degree.[3] However, he later abandoned his studies in Stellenbosch and went to University of Pretoria, where he enrolled for a BSc Mil. degree. He graduated in 1953.

In 1962, Malan married Magrietha Johanna van der Walt;[3] the couple had two sons and one daughter.

Military career[edit]

At the end of 1949, the first military degree course for officers was advertised and Malan joined the Permanent Force as a cadet, going on to complete his BSc Mil at the University of Pretoria in 1953.[3]

Malan was commissioned in the Navy and served in the Marines based on Robben Island.[3] When they were disbanded, he was transferred back into the Army as a lieutenant.[4]

Malan was earmarked for high office from early on in his military career; one of the many courses he attended was the Regular Command and General Staff Officers Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in the United States of America from 1962 to 1963. During this time he was introduced to President J.F. Kennedy and spent time doing manouvres with an American Armoured Division. In 1967, at age 36, while stationed in Windhoek and holding the rank of colonel, Malan joined the secretive Broederbond organization.[5] He went on to serve as commanding officer of various formations, including Western Province Command,[6]: 95  South West Africa Command, and the South African Military Academy.[6]: 95 [7]: 77 

In 1973, Malan was appointed as Chief of the South African Army and three years later as Chief of the South African Defence Force (SADF).[6]: 95 [8]: xiv–xv  As Chief of the SADF he implemented many administrative changes that earned him great admiration in military circles.[9] During this period he became very close to P.W. Botha, the then Minister of Defence and later Prime Minister and State President of South Africa.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Malan was awarded the following awards and decorations:[4]

Political career[edit]

In October 1980, Botha appointed Malan defence minister in the National Party government, a post he held until 1991. As a result of this appointment, he joined the National Party and became Member of Parliament for Modderfontein. He was also elected to be a member of the Executive Council of the National Party.[10]

During Malan's tenure in parliament as defence minister, his greatest opposition came from MPs of the Progressive Federal Party such as Harry Schwarz and Philip Myburgh, who both served as shadow defence ministers at various points during the 1980s.[11][page needed]

In July 1991, following a scandal involving secret government funding to the Inkatha Freedom Party and other opponents of the African National Congress, President F. W. de Klerk removed Malan from his influential post of defence minister and appointed him as the minister for water affairs and forestry.[12]

The strike craft SAS Magnus Malan of the South African Navy was named after him[13] prior to the change of government in 1994.

Later life[edit]

On 2 November 1995, Malan was charged together with 19 other former senior military officers for murdering 13 people (including seven children) in the KwaMakhutha massacre in 1987.[14][non-primary source needed][dead link] The murders were said to have been part of a conspiracy to create war between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and maintaining white minority rule. The charges related to an attack in January 1987 on the home of Victor Ntuli, an ANC activist, in KwaMakhutha township near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.[citation needed]

Malan and the other accused were bailed and ordered to appear in court again on 1 December 1995. A seven-month trial then ensued and brought hostility between black and white South Africans to the fore once again. All the accused were eventually acquitted. President Mandela called on South Africans to respect the verdict.[15] Nonetheless in South Africa, the Malan trial has come to be seen by some as a failure of the legal process.[16][17][original research?][18][original research?][19][20][21][22]

Malan also had to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.[23]

On 26 January 2007, he was interviewed by shortwave/Internet talk radio show The Right Perspective.[24] It is believed to be one of the very few, if not the only, interviews Malan gave outside of South Africa. In 2006, he published an autobiography titled My Life With the SA Defence Force.[25]

Malan died at his home in Pretoria on 18 July 2011.[26][27] He was survived by his wife, 3 children and 9 grandchildren.[28][3]


In August 2018, a book by a former apartheid-era policeman Mark Minnie and journalist Chris Steyn alleged that Malan had been involved in a paedophilia ring in the 1980s.[29] The book, The Lost Boys of Bird Island contains testimony that Malan used his position as Defence Minister to kidnap and ferry young Coloured boys to an island off the coast of South Africa by helicopter, under the pretext of going on a fishing trip. They were then allegedly raped and otherwise sexually abused by Malan and other members of the ring who purportedly included local businessman Dave Allen, former minister of environmental affairs John Wiley, and at least one other government minister who is not named but is still alive.[30] The book, however, contained sufficient information for readers to conclude that former finance minister, Barend du Plessis, was the implicated living minister.[31]

Dave Allen was later arrested for paedophilia but was found dead from an apparent suicide before he was due to appear in court.[32][33] Wiley was found dead just weeks later.[30] Mark Minnie, one of the authors of Lost Boys was found dead in August 2018.[34]

The allegations were met with scepticism and rejected by those who were intimately acquainted with Malan, including his surviving family.[35][36][37] In a review by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw, Minnie is described as "a sloppy, negligent and careless policeman". Pauw criticised the book's authors, especially Minnie, for the quality of the investigation and research supporting the allegations and Steyn for having a conflict of interest; and asserted that this has had a negative impact on the victims getting justice.[38] In April 2019, a major South African newspaper, Rapport, published an apology for their reporting based on the book. The newspaper apologised to the surviving relatives of Malan as new evidence had emerged that cast doubt on the contents of the book and the key allegations were based on unsubstantiated hearsay.[39][40] On the morning of 3 March 2020, Johan Victor Attorneys, who represented Barend du Plessis and the surviving families of Malan and Wiley, released a press statement revealing that, after a forensic investigation was conducted into the allegations made in the book, major concessions and a lack of concrete evidence implicating any of the ministers had been found. The publishers of The Lost Boys of Bird Island, Tafelberg, a subsidiary of NB Publishers, retracted the book from the market in both its hard copy and e-book form later on the same afternoon. They issued a statement in which an apology was extended to Barend du Plessis, but not to any other person identified in the book.[41][42]


  1. ^ Only the Cunene clasp was awarded, to members who served in Angola during Operation Savannah in 1975 and 1976. Recipients of the clasp wear a button, with the letter C encircled by a wreath, on the ribbon bar.


  1. ^ a b c "Obit – Magnus Malan: monster and militarist". South Africa. City Press. 23 July 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  2. ^ "General Magnus Malan". The Telegraph. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Davies, Richard (18 July 2011). "Magnus Malan dies 'peacefully' at 81". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Magnus Malan's career". News24. 18 July 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  5. ^ Wilkins, Ivor; Strydom, Hans (1 June 2012). The Super-Afrikaners: Inside the Afrikaner Broederbond. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers SA. p. A70. ISBN 9781868425358.
  6. ^ a b c Nöthling, C.J.; Meyers, E.M. (1982). "Leiers Deur die Jare (1912-1982)". Scientia Militaria: South African Journal of Military Studies (in Afrikaans). 12 (2): 89–98. doi:10.5787/12-2-631. ISSN 2224-0020.
  7. ^ Uys, Ian (1992). South African Military Who's Who 1452–1992. Germiston: Fortress Publishers. ISBN 0-9583173-3-X.
  8. ^ Hamann, Hilton (2001). "Introduction". Days of the Generals. Cape Town: Zebra Press (Struck Publishers). ISBN 1-86872-340-2.
  9. ^ Sinclair, Allan (June 2011). "OBITUARY: GENERAL MAGNUS MALAN, 1930 – 2011". South African Military History Journal. 15 (3).
  10. ^ Magnus Andre De Merindol Malan, South African History Online. Retrieved 3 December 2007 Archived 18 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Roherty, James (1992). State security in South Africa: civil-military relations under P.W. Botha. M E Sharpe Inc. ISBN 0-87332-877-9.
  12. ^ Chronology 1990–1999 Archived 1 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine, South African History Online. Retrieved 3 December 2007
  13. ^ Wessels, Andre. "The South African Navy during the years of conflict in Southern Africa 1966–1989" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Mayibuye – Volume 6 No. 8 – December 1995 | African National Congress". Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  15. ^ 1995: Ex-minister charged with apartheid murders, BBC News. Retrieved 3 November 2006
  16. ^ 10 S. Afr. J. Crim. Just. 141 (1997) Failing to Pierce the Hit Squad Veil: An Analysis of the Malan Trial; Varney, Howard; Sarkin, Jeremy
  17. ^ 1989 Acta Juridica 165 (1989) Sub-Contracting the Dirty Work; Plasket, Clive
  18. ^ Herbert M. Howe (1994). The South African Defence Force and Political Reform. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 32
  19. ^ 16 S. Afr. J. on Hum. Rts. 415 (2000) After the Dry White Season: The Dilemmas of Reparation and Reconstruction in South Africa; Jenkins, Catherine
  20. ^ The "New" South Africa: Violence Works Bill Berkeley World Policy Journal , Vol. 13, No. 4 (Winter, 1996/1997), pp. 73–80
  21. ^ 117 S. African L.J. 572 (2000) Second Bite at the Amnesty Cherry – Constitutional and Policy Issues around Legislation for a Second Amnesty, A; Klaaren, Jonathan; Varney, Howard
  22. ^ Shattered voices: language, violence, and the work of truth commissions, Teresa Godwin Phelps. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004 p. 64
  23. ^ HOPEWELL RADEBE (19 July 2011). "Malan gave SA 'total onslaught'". Archived from the original on 9 April 2023. Retrieved 23 February 2018 – via PressReader.
  24. ^ [1] Archived 7 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Baines, Gary. "The life of a uniformed technocrat turned securocrat: My life with the SA Defence Force, Magnus Malan: book review." Historia 54, no. 1 (2009): 314–327.
  26. ^ Douglas Martin (18 July 2011). "Magnus Malan, Apartheid Defender, Dies at 81". The New York Times.
  27. ^ "Magnus Malan dies". News24. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  28. ^ "Magnus Malan dies". News24. 18 July 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  29. ^ reporter, Citizen. "Elite ring of apartheid paedophiles allegedly preyed on coloured boys". The Citizen. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  30. ^ a b "Magnus Malan, two other National Party ministers 'were paedophiles'". News24. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  31. ^ Riaan Grobler, news24. "'The Lost Boys of Bird Island': Publishers withdraw paedophilia scandal book". news24. Retrieved 4 March 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  32. ^ "Apartheid's paedophiles: 'Magnus Malan and others in sex orgies with young boys'". City Press. South Africa. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  33. ^ "Police issue warning on cabinet member's suicide". United Press International. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  34. ^ Wilson, Gareth (14 August 2018). "Apartheid paedophile ring: Suicide note found at scene where Mark Minnie's body found". Times Live. Archived from the original on 14 August 2018.
  35. ^ "Magnus se familie 'geweldig geskok'". Netwerk24 (in Afrikaans). Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  36. ^ "Magnus se familie verwerp bewering 'ten sterkste'". Netwerk24 (in Afrikaans). Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  37. ^ "'Loutere kaf, sê Pik oor bewerings oor Malan". Beeld (in Afrikaans). Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  38. ^ Pauw, Jacques. "Mark Minnie: A sloppy, negligent and careless policeman". Life.
  39. ^ "Bird Island report was 'mistake' – Afrikaans newspaper Rapport apologises to apartheid politicians". TimesLIVE. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  40. ^ "Rapport sê: 'Bird Island': Ons het 'n fout gemaak". Netwerk24. 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  41. ^ Riaan Grobler. "'The Lost Boys of Bird Island': Publishers withdraw paedophilia scandal book". news24. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  42. ^ Charles Cilliers, The Citizen (3 March 2020). "Publisher 'unreservedly apologises' to Barend du Plessis over Lost Boys of Bird Island book". Retrieved 4 March 2020.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry
1991 – 1993
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded by Chief of the South African Defence Force
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief of the South African Army
Preceded by Chief of Staff Army
Succeeded by
Preceded by Officer Commanding Western Province Command
Succeeded by
Preceded by Officer Commanding South African Military Academy
Succeeded by
Preceded by Officer Commanding South West Africa Command
Succeeded by