Shaun Johnson Picture: Twitter
Shaun Johnson Picture: Twitter

Nelson Mandela Foundation mourns 'untimely passing' of Shaun Johnson, 60

By Staff Writer Time of article published Feb 25, 2020

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Cape Town – The founding chief executive of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, Shaun Johnson, died on Monday after a sudden illness. He was 60 years old.

"We are deeply saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Shaun Johnson. For those of us in the organisation who have known him for many years, the news was shattering. 

"Our thoughts are with Stefania, Luna, the rest of his family and the many people in South Africa and abroad who counted him as a friend."

"Shaun died of natural causes in the early hours of the morning at his home in Cape Town at the age of 60," the foundation said on Tuesday. 

The foundation added that Johnson, who served it between 2003 and 2019, "was a renowned anti-apartheid journalist, editor and executive, playing a key role in reporting on South Africa’s transition to democracy".

A private ceremony will be held for the former Rhodes scholar, political journalist, Saturday Star editor, The Sunday Independent launch editor, Cape Argus editor, Independent Newspapers deputy chief executive and author. A public memorial service will also be held.

Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Sello Hatang told EWN: “He stepped in at a very challenging time for the Foundation, just as Madiba was providing the organisation with a new mandate while progressively stepping away from public life. 

"Shaun steered the ship expertly. He did it for Madiba."

Professor Njabulo Ndebele, chairman of the boards of both the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, said: "Shaun was one of those very rare individuals who combined managerial expertise with creative flair. He was a wonderful storyteller and a deep thinker.”

"Shaun leaves a strong legacy within the family of Mandela organisations. We will miss being able to pick up the phone and draw on his wisdom and insight. We will miss the opportunity to enjoy another novel from his pen. 

"We will feel the loss of a great South African for the longest time."

The Cape Town Central City Improvement District said: "It is with shock and sadness that the board of directors, CEO and management of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District has learnt of the untimely death of Shaun Johnson.

"Shaun made a huge contribution to the management of downtown Cape Town in his tenure as chairperson of the former Cape Town Partnership, a public-private partnership organisation formed in 1999 to develop and promote the CBD, and to which the CCID was affiliated.

“Shaun keenly understood what was required to ensure a successful CBD and was a key role player in the rejuvenation of the Cape Town Central City.

“He was a visionary, who was highly skilled in getting opposing parties to work towards the common good, and we will always remember his eloquence, his sense of fairness and his personable manner.”

In 1994, he published a book on South Africa’s transition, Strange Days Indeed, which included an introduction by Mandela. 

In 2007, his first novel, The Native Commissioner, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in Africa, the M-Net Literary Award and the Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Book of the Year.

Johnson spent his early years in Transkei and was later educated at Hyde Park High School in Johannesburg, Rhodes University in Grahamstown and at Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Cape Times

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