ADRIAN Leftwich, a white student leader in the early 1960s who was involved in an anti-apartheid bomb plot and later became a prominent British academic, died in England earlier this week. His death came four months after a lung-cancer diagnosis.
Leftwich was best known among South African students of his generation for turning state evidence against his collaborators in a 1964 anti-apartheid bomb plot. However, abroad he was best known as a prominent academic at the University of York and as an adviser to governments on the politics of development.
For the past few years, Leftwich had focused on his role as research director of the Developmental Leadership Programme, which looks into the key roles played by leaders, elites, and coalitions in economic development.
He was one of the foremost thinkers in the now increasingly popular political settlements approach to development, which sees deals between leading groups as crucial for effective development.
In 1964, Leftwich and a small group of fellow students belonging to the African Resistance Movement blew up a Cape Town suburban railway signal cable. He was detained on July 4 1964 and after he collaborated with the police, other members of the movement were arrested.
While some of those arrested maintained bitter resentment against Leftwich, others made efforts to reconcile with him.
Stephanie Kemp, who spent time in jail for her involvement in the bombing, wrote on her Facebook page on Thursday that she had "gone through a painful journey of reconciliation with him over 12 or more years. He was the same person, although he could never forget his fall almost 50 years ago. I remember him for his courage in taking on the apartheid state at such a young age and his fortitude in bearing the notoriety of stumbling in the face of enormous state repression."
Author Hugh Lewin, who was also jailed for his role, wrote of his path to reconciliation with Leftwich in the book Stones Against the Mirror: Friendship in the Time of the South African Struggle.
Leftwich leaves behind a daughter and a son.