Journalist Margaret Legum passes away

Margaret Legum, best known for her call to sanction apartheid South Africa, died in Cape Town at the age of 74 on Thursday. She died of complications arising from a cancer-related operation.

She leaves behind two sisters, three daughters, five granddaughters and one grandson.
She was widowed in 2003.

Legum, who studied economics at Rhodes University and Cambridge, was a major advocate of social justice in South Africa. She lectured and worked as a journalist, often writing for the Mail & Guardian while residing in Kalk Bay in Cape Town.

She co-authored the book South Africa: Crisis for the West, which was published in 1964. The book argued for economic sanctions to help bring down the apartheid government. She and her husband, Colin, were banned in from South Africa in 1962.

More recently, Legum had criticised the economic situation in South Africa.

“There is the growing understanding that South Africa ... is suffering an economic decline, not of its own making. Our famous political ‘miracle’ is in danger of being undermined by the fact of our dependence on world economic factors over, which we have little or no control

“I am outraged ... appalling poverty in the midst of unbelievable wealth and potential plenty for everyone”

She also co-founded the South African New Economics Foundation (Sane).

Vanessa Witbooi, director of Sane, described Legum as a humble, vocal and informed new economist.

“She led Sane with vitality, goodwill and intellectual incisiveness, commitment and humour, qualities that she embodied throughout her life of service for the cause of economic justice,” said Witbooi.

Her granddaughter, Mariam Wheeldon, remembered Legum as an extraordinarily engaging person who was “concerned about economic justice and the poor”.

Wheeldon said that Legum had a great love for poetry, so much so that she published an anthology titled Learning to Saunter earlier in 2007.

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