St Johns College honours one of their greats

Anti-apartheid activist and writer Hugh Lewin with St John's College learner Fraser Moore.

St John’s College held a special unveiling on 14 February as the school history block was named after former political prisoner and learner, Hugh Lewin.

The naming ceremony was led by headmaster Paul Edey and by the head prefect, Raymond Barrow. Sithenkosi Mbuli and Liam Woodward, read poems and essays written by Lewin.

Spokesperson for the school Jacqui Deeks said, “Father Ian Stevens presided at the unveiling and blessing of the plaque commemorating the event. The college’s Schola Cantorum, conducted by Sidumo Nyamezele, led the school in singing Siyahamba, Modimo and Bawo Thixo Somandla.”

Hugh Lewin attended St John’s College from 1948 until 1957. He was a distinguished student, excelling in many school activities, winning various academic prizes at Speech Day, the College’s annual prize-giving ceremony.

Read: St John’s College achieves stellar results

Deeks said, “He was an editor of the school magazine, The Johannian. He was a house prefect, chairman of the art club, secretary of the pioneer club and a committee member of the debating society. He appeared in five major drama productions.”

Lewin was also secretary of the St John’s African Education Fund, which was set up to provide financial aid to African students wishing to undertake higher education.

While he was at St John’s, the young Lewin developed an awareness of the wrongs of apartheid. This awareness was partly attributable to an innate sense of justice and morality acquired at home, and partly to the fact that he often accompanied St John’s College teachers to Sophiatown, the multiracial residential area that stood as a symbol of defiance to apartheid.

These visits to Sophiatown, and the sermons of priests such as Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, opened Lewin’s eyes to the realities of apartheid society. Written works produced by him in the mid-1950s, and published in the school magazine, reflected an acute awareness and abhorrence of the iniquities wrought by apartheid.

Deeks added, “Once at university, Mr Lewin became involved in anti-apartheid student politics. Having graduated, he worked as a journalist at the Johannesburg newspaper The Post. In 1964 he was arrested by the apartheid government’s security police.”

After several months in police detention, during which he was physically abused, he was prosecuted on account of his anti-apartheid activities. Eventually he was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.

Read: St John’s College in Houghton appoints new senior mistress for transformation and diversity

After his release, Lewin described his experiences in his book, Bandiet: Seven Years in a South African Prison. A supplemented version, Bandiet Out of Jail, was published in 2002 and won the Olive Schreiner Prize and the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award.

In 2013, Lewin was the recipient of a Golden Eagle Award, which is given to Old Johannians who have made truly significant contributions to society. Deeks concluded, “This week, the school’s history block (originally built in 1938 and extended in 1961) was named after Lewin in recognition of the brave moral stand he took against apartheid, and also in recognition of his work as a journalist and writer.”


Share your school story by posting on the North Eastern Tribune Facebook page

By Andrei van Wyk

Latest News


Recommended Story x
South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day

Thanx for your referral. We have no doubt your friends will love our newsletter as much as you!

Don't forget to verify your email.

to our FREE newsletter
SUBSCRIBE to our FREE newsletter.

SELECT your titles:

Alex News
City Buzz
Fourways Review
Joburg East Express
Midrand Reporter
North Eastern Tribune
Northcliff Melville Times
Randburg Sun
Roodepoort Northsider
Rosebank Killarney Gazette
Sandton Chronicle

Your details:

Your friends: