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1995: Ex-minister charged with apartheid murders

Former South African defence minister General Magnus Malan has been charged with murder.

General Malan was arrested today with 10 other former senior military officers.

They were charged with murdering 13 black people in 1987 as part of a conspiracy to create war between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Zulu Inkhata Freedom Party.

The conspiracy was said to have been aimed at damaging the ANC and maintaining white rule.

The charges relate to an attack in January 1987 on the home of Victor Ntuli, an ANC activist.

Mr Ntuli was not at home but 13 people, including seven children, were killed in the house in KwaMakhuta township, near Durban.

It is alleged that General Malan and his co-defendants supported a covert unit which trained the Inkhata members who carried out the attack.

General Malan, who served as defence minister from 1980-1991, is the highest-ranking apartheid official so far to face charges for his part in combating opponents of white rule.

"I am a moderate, I am a democrat, I am a Christian"

General Magnus Malan

The 11 accused were granted bail and ordered to appear in court again on 1 December.

After being released on bail, General Malan said: "What happened here today is causing the biggest crisis that's ever been in the democracy of South Africa.

"I would like to say I am a moderate, I am a democrat, I am a Christian and I'm very proud of it," the general added.

The former ruling National Party and other right-wing white groups have demanded the defendants be granted immunity from prosecution under an amnesty clause in the country's interim constitution.

However, President Nelson Mandela has said he will not halt the prosecutions.

In Context
Eventually the number charged rose to 20 - all were acquitted after a trial in 1996.

South African President Nelson Mandela supported the judge's decision and called on South Africans to respect it.

The mammoth seven-month trial cost around 1.2m and brought hostility between black and white South Africans once more out into the open.

Very few people have been tried for crimes carried out in the apartheid era because the South African Government granted wide-ranging amnesty to both apartheid officials and black anti-apartheid fighters.

In 1996 a Truth and Reconciliation Commission began its hearings.

The commission had been set up by the government to establish a record of human rights violations and to give recommendations on reparation for victims and amnesty.

However, the commission's final report in 1998 met with criticism from all sides.

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