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Margaret Legum

Anti-apartheid activist and noted Scots radical

Born: 8 October, 1933, in Pretoria, South Africa.

Died: 1 November, 2007, in Cape Town, aged 74.

THE unexpected death from cancer of Margaret Legum has robbed Scotland of one of its most feisty and charming social reformers who specialised in the economics of South Africa.

Known primarily for her globally influential 1963 book on the necessity of economic sanctions against South Africa, South Africa: Crisis for the West, which she wrote in partnership with her famed husband Colin, Legum had a long career as a key member of the Iona Community, the radical ecumenical movement based on the island of Iona.

Such was the impact of the couple's work that in 1962 she and Colin, who was regarded as Fleet Street's first African correspondent, were expelled from their native South Africa and were able to return only after the end of apartheid.

Holding dual nationality, she settled in Britain and brought her unique blend of punctilious intellectualism and charming persuasiveness to bear on a number of social organisations and was soon in demand as a broadcaster, journalist and trainer for radical activists.

She worked as a lecturer at the London School of Economics, as she had back at Rhodes University.

She was the founder of the South African CARAS (Centre for Anti-Racism and Sexism) as well as the British agency PACE (Preparation for adaptation to changing environments).

Her first degree, in economics, was from Rhodes University, and to this she added another from Cambridge and a third from Rhodes.

Her husband had been personally recruited to the Observer by David Astor and became one of the most influential journalists in his field, drawing heavily on his wife's experiences and intellectual excellence.

During their period of exile in Britain Legum was a frequent visitor to the Iona Community, where she was influential in the community's work for global justice.

Legum would often say that Scotland held her "spiritual bank account", and she would spend much of the time on Iona walking its northern beaches and climbing its marshy hills.

The couple had three daughters but she still found time for work and travel, visiting India and China as well as working extensively in Europe.

Colin died in 2003 and Legum's latter days were spent in South Africa, where she campaigned tirelessly for a system of economic organisation that would reduce developing nations' dependence on the vagaries of the world markets.

Recently she wrote: "I am outraged at our [South African] appalling poverty in the midst of unbelievable wealth and potential of plenty for everyone. It is based on our dependency on world economic factors over which we have no control."

Her last book, It Doesn't Have To Be Like This, was published to much acclaim in 2002.

She is survived by her daughters and grandchildren.

 
 
 

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