When in 1988 co-editor Victor Munnik and I published a collection of short stories about conscription, Forces Favourites, then defence minister Magnus Malan wanted us locked up. This, anyway, was what an editor at an Afrikaans newspaper told me. The liberal-minded editor added that he had persuaded Malan not to persecute us, to avoid giving us more publicity.

I was disappointed. Although all 5,000 copies, printed by the anti-apartheid publisher Taurus, of which I was a director, were sold in the end, the book did not really seem to add much to the cause in any overt way. We needed that publicity.

What did happen was that mysterious break-ins started at my house. Documents on investigations disappeared. After the unbanning of the ANC, and during a raid on the premises of the Civil Co-operation Bureau (CCB), my name was found on a list its members had overlooked when they burned most of their paperwork.

I did not suffer nearly as much as other journalists or activists at the hands of the police or army. Afrikaans speakers were treated with kid gloves, with the odd exception, such as Namibian activist Anton Lubowski, who was killed by a CCB assassin. Such experiences, however, do sharpen the senses; calibrate the radar.

Around 2000, on the recommendation of Hans Strydom, co-author of The Super-Afrikaners, a fugitive in a fraud case, Ed Dutton, phoned me from Australia. Strydom was going to be a witness in his extradition trial, revealing that a key man in the team of officials going after Dutton was a member of the Afrikanerbond.

Although he had once been named Young Businessman of the Year, Dutton seemed like a dubious person to provide a platform for.

What persuaded me was the enormous effort put into pursuing him for round-tripping, which by then had become completely respectable and was being carried out by tens of thousands of people. Round-tripping was made a crime in the apartheid years in an attempt to keep money in the country as part of the effort against sanctions.

During the state investigation into Dutton’s affairs, which took dozens of officials to countries all over the world, his Interboard factory was completely demolished, before any verdict had been made in his case. The largest piece left in the heap of detritus, said Dutton from Australia, was as big as his thumb.

However, what persuaded me most was his tales of threats and break-ins at his home, culminating in shots he fired at an intruder. The next morning, the man’s body was found in Dutton’s garden and identified as that of a plainclothes policeman. This, and warnings by friendly politicians, had prompted him to pack his bags in a hurry, jump bail and flee to Australia under a false name.

His home in Linbro Park was in the Modderfontein constituency of Magnus Malan, MP. As far as I am aware, nothing ever came of any investigation into the policeman’s death.

Dutton claimed he was in Malan’s sights because he was a dark horse in the race to succeed PW Botha as National Party leader. A flamboyant millionaire by then, Dutton had started to venture into politics, and averred that he was making headway in the Modderfontein constituency against Malan.

Was Malan involved in all this? Under his watch as probably the most powerful man in SA after Botha, as the main force in the National Security Management System, he oversaw several much more grievous activities. In 1996 he stood trial for the 1987 KwaMakhutha massacres, but was acquitted in what many of us who wrote on the trial still regard as a miscarriage of justice.

My own inquiries revealed that Dutton, a former Rhodesian, was known in Malan’s constituency for the derogatory remarks he had made about Afrikaners. Dutton himself told Australian media he was being persecuted because he was following nonracial staff policies at his factories, but this is doubtful because such policies were already being applied at several enterprises run by National Party members.

Much else about Dutton was doubtful. Much later I learned that one of his Interboard factories had gone bankrupt because, as one wry comment put it, there was too much sand in the particle board it sold. Dutton’s appeal against his extradition order failed at first, but he remained in jail in Australia for several years during the complex review process. In the end, in 2005, his extradition was revoked because by then he had been incarcerated for as long as he would have been had he been found guilty in SA, and also because the health minister at the time, Tony Abbott, felt Dutton was at risk of being raped and contracting Aids in an SA jail.

In 2013 Dutton set up the company National Biodiesel, but a year later he died. Dozens of Australian investors lost out when the scheme, using state money and centred on importing soya beans and turning them into fuel, came to naught — although the firm has survived in another form. Scoundrel or not, in 2000 his persecution in SA did seem out of proportion. At one stage, Gill Marcus, then governor of the Reserve Bank, showed me the intricate web of companies and trusts Dutton was involved in. When I put her persuasive remarks to him, Dutton said: "Hans, I took money out of the country, and brought it back again." Others, he implied, left their round-tripping proceeds in offshore accounts.

When I asked Marcus about the revelation that a central official in the bank was a member of the Afrikanerbond, a secret organisation able to assist its members in ways some people call insider trading, she said: "All I know is that the Afrikanerbond held the country together during the 1980s."

Was Malan involved in all this? Under his watch as probably the most powerful man in SA after Botha, as the main force in the National Security Management System, he oversaw several much more grievous activities. In 1996 he stood trial for the 1987 KwaMakhutha massacres, but was acquitted in what many of us who wrote on the trial still regard as a miscarriage of justice.

Officials who took part in Dutton’s prosecution were also involved in Malan’s trial — on the prosecutor’s side, whose office was criticised for some seriously neglectful decisions. The vast machinery used against Dutton certainly contrasted with the small effort against Malan.

What is also true is that Malan seems to draw accusations towards him like a flycatcher — the latest being the lurid tales of sex orgies with boys on Bird Island. In 1997, when Malan announced in parliament that Lubowski was an army spy, many of us laughed outright. We felt the fact that Malan was able to produce a paper trail merely showed how good he and the armed forces had become at the art of disinformation.

Since the Bird Island revelations people have come forward with information seeming to confirm at least aspects of them. Even if nothing sticks, Malan will be remembered for them, in a case of poetic justice perhaps, vis-a-vis the blackening of Lubowski’s name.

As for all the notorious activities of the CCB, Stratcom, and the Ferdi Barnards, Wouter Bassons and Joe Versters of this world, justice is still outstanding to a great extent. Bad as mistreating young men or one’s political opponents may be, the crimes of these minions of Malan were far more substantial. He should never have received amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Malan was a servant of neither truth nor reconciliation.

Pienaar is a journalist and author. His next novel, Die Generaal (The General), is out in October.