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Hugh Lewin - journalist, activist and humane fighter for justice dies aged 79

By: stagedoorscribbler - January 28, 2019

Hugh Lewin

We are saddened at the loss of an old comrade in the fight against apartheid.

Hugh Lewin, who has died aged 79, was one of those extraordinary people whose courage in the face of adversity remained steadfast. 

Inspired by his boyhood mentor, Trevor Huddleston, Lewin initially planned to train as a priest but as a student he became immersed in politics and, on graduation, used journalism as a platform to fight for for a voice for thse being crushed by the ruthless police state.

He became a member of the South African Liberal Party, which at the time was the only legal non-racial political party in the country, following the banning of Mandela’s ANC.

He also joined the clandestine African Resistance Movement (ARM) and, despite being a great critic of any violent activity, took part in a sabotage campaign which targeted government installations like electricity pylons.

These ‘shock tactics’ earned him a seven year jail sentence. Even though he was beaten and tortured, Lewin dismissed his jail time as a mere ‘parking ticket’ compared to sentences meted out to activists like Nelson Mandela. He later spent time in exile in London and published the book Bandiet, a secret jail diary that he had kept. It’s sequel, Bandiet – Out of Jail, published after apartheid had ended, won the 2003 Olive Schreiner Prize. 

In its foreword, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote: “Hugh Lewin went through sheer hell and emerged, not devastated, not broken and not consumed with bitterness or lust for revenge. He is endowed with ubuntu – the very essence of being human.”