Johannesburg - Magnus Malan, a former defence minister, and 10 other retired military leaders are to be charged on Thursday with 13 political murders in a case that will force South Africa to confront the bloody excesses of the apartheid era.
General Malan, the hard-line defence minister during the turbulent 1980s, will be the most senior political figure ever brought to court to answer accusations that white right-wingers went to desperate lengths to hold on to power.
The Police Minister, Sydney Mufamadi, announced the planned charges last night. Others to be arrested and charged for the 1987 murders included the former military chief, General Jannie Geldenhuys; the former army chief, General Kat Liebenberg; and the former military intelligence chief director, General Tienie Groenewald.
The planned arrests "can obviously have far-reaching repercussions for national reconciliation", said the Deputy President, FW de Klerk, leader of the National Party. He called for an immediate amnesty for members of the former government accused of crimes.
The former military chief, General Constand Viljoen, called the situation a "serious crisis" that was politically motivated, coming days before local elections.
General Malan and the other former military leaders were being accused of setting up hit squads operated by the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party, a bitter rival of the ANC in the former Natal province where the killings occurred. Thirteen people, including four women and six children under the age of 10, died in the attack in January 1987 on the home of an ANC-aligned anti-apartheid figure.