Magnus Malan circa 1990.
|Minister of Defence|
|Prime Minister||P. W. Botha|
|Preceded by||P.W. Botha|
|Succeeded by||Roelf Meyer|
|Born||30 January 1930|
Pretoria, South Africa
|Died||18 July 2011 (aged 81)|
Pretoria, South Africa
|Spouse(s)||Magrietha Johanna van der Walt|
|Children||2 sons, 1 daughter|
|Alma mater||University of Pretoria|
|Occupation||Politician and military chief|
|Branch/service||South African Army|
South African Navy
|Years of service||1950–1980|
|Commands||Chief of the South African Defence Force|
Chief of the Army
Western Province Command
South African Military Academy
|Awards||Star of South Africa|
Order for Meritorious Service
Southern Cross Decoration
Southern Cross Medal
General Magnus André de Merindol Malan, (30 January 1930 – 18 July 2011) was a pivotal military man 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. 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, RENAMO and LLA) were bolstered in neighbouring and Frontline States. 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.
Malan's father was a professor of biochemistry at the University of Pretoria 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. However, he later abandoned his studies in Stellenbosch and went to University of Pretoria, where he enrolled for a B.Sc. Mil. degree. He graduated in 1953.
In 1962, Malan married Magrietha Johanna van der Walt; the couple had two sons and one daughter.
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.
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 in the United States of America from 1962 to 1963. In 1967, at age 36, while stationed in Windhoek and holding the rank of colonel, Malan joined the secretive Broederbond organization. He went on to serve as commanding officer of various formations, including Western Province Command,:95 South West Africa Command, and the South African Military Academy.:95:77
As Chief of the SADF he implemented many administrative changes that earned him great admiration in military circles. During this period he became very close to P.W. Botha, the then Minister of Defence and later Prime Minister.
Awards and decorations
Malan was awarded the following awards and decorations:
- Star of South Africa (SSA)
- Order for Meritorious Service (Gold) (OMSG)
- Southern Cross Decoration (SD)
- Southern Cross Medal (SM)
- Pro Patria Medal (with Cunene Clasp)
- Good Service Medal, Gold (30 Years)
- Good Service Medal, Silver (20 Years)
- Permanent Force Good Service Medal
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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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. Nonetheless in South Africa, the Malan trial has come to be seen by some as a failure of the legal process.
On 26 January 2007, he was interviewed by shortwave/Internet talk radio show The Right Perspective. It is believed to be one of the very few, if not the only, interviews Gen. Malan gave outside of South Africa. In 2006, he published an autobiography titled My Life With the SA Defence Force.
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. 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.
Dave Allen was later arrested for paedophilia but was found dead from an apparent suicide before he was due to appear in court. Wiley was found dead just weeks later. Mark Minnie, one of the authors of Lost Boys was found dead from an apparent suicide in August 2018.
The allegations were met with scepticism and rejected by those who were intimately acquainted with Malan, including his surviving family. 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. 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.
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- "Bird Island report was 'mistake' - Afrikaans newspaper Rapport apologises to apartheid politicians". TimesLIVE. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
- "Rapport sê: 'Bird Island': Ons het 'n fout gemaak". Netwerk24. 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
Pieter Willem Botha
| Minister of Defence (South Africa)
| Chief of the South African Defence Force
| Chief of the South African Army|
| Officer Commanding Western Province Command
Pieter de Vos
| Officer Commanding South African Military Academy