Business Day was the first to publish Rehana Rossouw’s review of Hugh Lewin’s new book, Stones against the mirror. It brought back vivid memories of my student days at the  University of Stellenbosch where I met both Hugh Lewin and Adrian Leftwich, one of the main characters in the new book.   In fact together with a fellow student at Maties we persuaded Adrian Leftwich and Jonty Driver to start a branch of NUSAS at Stellenbosch University in about 1963.

I remember being on the outer fringes of the ARM student group and attending meetings in Cape Town without fully appreciating what it was they had in mind.   I really look forward to reading the book to find out much more about that movement and those early days of the “struggle”.

Rehana Rossouw’s review in Business Day of Hugh Lewin’s book – Throwing stones at the past can help heal it: Friendship in the Time of the South African Struggle (Random House Struik) can be viewed or down-loaded and makes fascinating reading.   Here are some extracts from that book review article.

Friendship betrayed

“HUGH Lewin carried bitterness in his heart for 40 years, sharp as a shard from a mirror, for his best friend who had betrayed him.   When he finally rid himself of his sour burden, he sat down to write a book that enriches South African literature.   His mined memories are shared in a voice chiselled down to the essentials in Stones Against the Mirror: Friendship in the Time of the South African Struggle (Random House Struik).   It is essentially a story of friendship, forged and shattered in the struggle against apartheid”.

Book launch

“His book launch last month was attended by several grey- and white-haired former bombers and survivors of torture in detention.   Hopefully, more of their stories will be shared.   Despite a plethora of struggle biographers, South Africans know little about the sacrifices and pain experienced by intrepid adventurers, implacable in their resistance”.

Meeting Adrian Leftwich

“Lewin met Adrian Leftwich at university, when both were student activists.   ‘We lived, slept, ate and drank politics.   It consumed us, every moment of every day’.   Their comradeship was enriched by a huge dollop of friendship.   Soon after he accepted the invitation to join the underground dynamiters, Lewin discovered that his best friend was also in the group.   He thought it inevitable; to build a circle of trusted collaborators, people chose those to whom they were closest.   Lewin worked as a journalist on the Golden City Post by day and learned to build and plant bombs at night”.

John Harris and the station bomb

“In July 1964, ARM’s attacks in Johannesburg and Cape Town attracted the attention of the security police.   Like a line of dominoes, the saboteurs were caught, one after the other.   Lewin was detained under the 90-day detention law five days after his best friend — who had given his name to the police”.

“John Harris, one of the few ARM members who escaped attention, planted a bomb at Park Station, timed to go off at peak hour.   He phoned a warning to the police, who took no action.   Four weeks after the blast, a grandmother died from her injuries; 22 others were injured.   The security police stepped up their torture”.

Evidence in court

“Some of the ARM comrades tried to provide minimal information in the statements they eventually signed.   Others cracked.   Leftwich and another ARM member, John Lloyd, testified against Lewin and his three co-accused.   Lloyd also testified against Harris, who was executed eight months after the Park Station bomb, at 27”.

Public admission by Adrian Leftwich and meeting

“In June 2002, Leftwich published an article in Granta magazine titled I Gave the Names.   It gave Lewin what he had been waiting decades for: an explanation that didn’t duck responsibility.   Leftwich wrote:

‘Not why I had done it, or the circumstances of my doing it, but that I had done it.   That I had betrayed my colleagues… I had chosen, I had acted….   Unlike many betrayals, mine was public and known’.”

“Curious about himself, and his friend whose voice rose up from the Granta article, Lewin contacted him and the men met for the first time in decades.   The struggle provides Lewin with a dramatic backdrop to an incredible true story of a friendship tortured by politics.   His description of their reunion is pared down to the essentials, and filled with love”.