Legum, Colin 1919-2003

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LEGUM, Colin 1919-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born January 3, 1919, in Kestell, South Africa; died June 8, 2003, in Cape Town, South Africa. Journalist and author. Legum, as a reporter for the London Observer and as an activist, was an influential voice for the welfare and independence of native peoples in Africa after the demise of European colonialism. Educated in the Orange Free State, his career in journalism began at the age of seventeen, when he was hired by the Johannesburg Sunday Express as an office boy. Two years later he was promoted to political correspondent. From 1939 to 1943 he was editor of the Mineworker, followed by four years as editor of the Johannesburg Illustrated Bulletin. Greatly interested in politics, he joined the Labour Party and served on the Johannesburg City Council from 1942 to 1948. As a councilman, he became city council leader and was chair of both the general purposes committee and the special housing committee. With the rise of the Afrikaner Nationalists, however, Legum saw his hopes for South Africa crumble as rightists took over the country; he left his homeland for England in 1949. His interest in psychoanalysis led him to a job with the Tavistock Institute, where he met David Astor, editor of the Observer. The two learned they shared the same interests, and Astor hired Legum—first as a freelancer and then as a staff member—as a reporter and associate editor. This association continued until 1987, during which time Legum wrote frequently about the political situation in post-colonial Africa. While in England, he also participated in a number of important organizations, including the Africa Educational Trust and the Africa Bureau. Furthermore, he supported the causes of developing nations as editor of the Africa Contemporary Record, which he founded in 1968, and as coeditor of the Middle East Survey. Legum also wrote a number of influential books about Africa during his career, including Must We Lose Africa? (1954); South Africa: Crisis for the West (1964), which he wrote with his wife, Margaret, and which bears the distinction of being the first book to advocate sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa; Southern Africa: The Secret Diplomacy of Detente (1975); The Battlefronts of Southern Africa (1988); and Africa since Independence (1999). After leaving the Observer, Legum edited Third World Reports in London for a time. With the improving political situation in South Africa, he returned to his homeland and spent his final years in Kalk Bay outside Cape Town, filling his time with gardening, fishing, and teaching a course in African developments at the University of Cape Town. For his untiring work as a campaigner for African emancipation, Legum was recognized with two honorary degrees—one from University of South Africa and one from Rhodes University—and was made an honorary secretary of the Southern African Labour Congress.



Independent (London, England), June 10, 2003, p. 12.

Times (London, England), June 16, 2003.