Adrian Leftwich

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Adrian Leftwich
Died2 April 2013(2013-04-02) (aged 72–73)
Alma materUniversity of Cape Town, University of York
OccupationAnti-apartheid, politics professor
ChildrenBenjamin Francis Leftwich

Adrian Leftwich (1940 – 2 April 2013) was a white South African student leader active in the early 1960s in the Anti-apartheid struggle.[1] He came to Britain, where he was a prominent academic in the politics department at the University of York.[2]

Anti-apartheid activism in South Africa[edit]

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 with the African Resistance Movement (ARM). He and a small group of fellow students blew up a Cape Town suburban railway signal cable after which he was detained on 4 July 1964. He collaborated with the police under threat of torture and other members of the movement were arrested.[1]

While some of those arrested maintained bitter resentment against Leftwich, others made efforts to reconcile with him.[3] Stephanie Kemp, who spent time in jail for her involvement in the bombing, stated on her Facebook page 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.[4]

Later life[edit]

In the UK, Leftwich worked on the politics of development, and 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. He was research director of the Developmental Leadership Programme, which looks into the key roles played by leaders, elites, and coalitions in economic development. He noted that "development has also managed to come around in states that are run by corrupt elites - just as long as these elites are relatively less corrupt and as long as they are determined in the cause of development, independent of the special interest groups.

Family and personal[edit]

He died in 2013 of lung cancer, four months after diagnosis, leaving a daughter and a son, Benjamin Francis Leftwich.


  • Leftwich, Adrian (1974). South Africa: Economic Growth and Political Change: With Comparative Studies of Chile, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. St. Martin’s Press.
  • Leftwich, Adrian (1994). The Development State. University of York.
  • Leftwich, Adrian (1995). Democracy and Development: Theory and Practice. Polity Press.
  • Leftwich, Adrian (2000). States of Development: On the Primacy of Politics in Development. Polity Press.
  • Leftwich, Adrian (2004). What is Politics?: The Activity and its Study. Polity Press.
  • Leftwich, Adrian (2009). Redefining Politics Routledge Library Editions: Political Science Volume 45. Routledge.
  • Leftwich, Adrian (2014). Introducing Politics. Polity Press.


  1. ^ a b Gavin Evans (28 May 2013). "Adrian Leftwich: Leading anti-apartheid activist who turned state witness - Obituaries - News". The Independent. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  2. ^ Katzenellenbogen, Jonathan (5 April 2013). "Activist turned academic dies in UK". Business Day Live. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  3. ^ "Adrian Leftwich, The Unforgiven". Daily Maverick. 21 April 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  4. ^ "Hugh Lewin, anti-apartheid activist who was betrayed by his best friend – obituary". The Telegraph. 8 February 2019. Retrieved 23 November 2019.