Shaun Johnson was a newspaper journalist and editor, author and the founding chief executive of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Nelson Mandela Foundation confirmed the passing of author and anti-apartheid journalist Shaun Johnson, who served as its former chief executive.
“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.”
— NelsonMandela (@NelsonMandela) February 25, 2020
According to The Journalist, Johnson wrote the feasibility study for the New Nation newspaper in 1981, and was one of the early members of the Weekly Mail team (now the Mail & Guardian).
He served as deputy editor and political editor of the Johannesburg Star and was the editor of titles including the Cape Argus and Saturday Star.
Johnson was the founding editor of The Sunday Independent in 1995.
In 2003 he was appointed deputy chief executive of Independent News & Media South Africa and was the founding chief executive of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation in Cape Town.
In 1994 he published Strange Days Indeed and in 2007 his 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.
In 2006 Johnson took on the role of acting chief executive for the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) while continuing to be the chief executive of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF).
Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Sello Hatang recalls: “He stepped in at a very challenging time for the Foundation, just as Madiba was providing the organization with a new mandate while progressively stepping away from public life. Shaun steered the ship expertly. He did it for Madiba.”
“Shaun was one of those very rare individuals who combined managerial expertise with creative flair,” says Professor Njabulo Ndebele, chairman of the boards of both the NMF and the MRF. “He was a wonderful storyteller and a deep thinker.”
“Shaun leaves a strong legacy within the family of Mandela organizations. 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.”
Other South Africans paid tribute to Johnson on social media.
— Rhodes JMS (@Rhodes_JMS) February 25, 2020
Shaun Johnson who died yesterday hired me at The Sunday Independent in Johannesburg in 1996. We met again last year at the instigation of a mutual friend. He was an inspired editor who loved his country. His heart was always in the right place. Sad loss… https://t.co/YBmWLoulym
— Amma Ogan (@ammaogan) February 25, 2020
Shaun Johnson was a terrific and brave journalist…one of the inspirations, in addition to the then Black radical’ish City Press and radical Sowetan when I first stepped into the newsroom early to mid 1990s. Great writer, too. #RIP Shaun Johnson https://t.co/qaSLjsEY2b
— bongani madondo (@bonganimadondo) February 25, 2020
— Chris Vick (@chrisvick3) February 25, 2020
At least we heard that one last hike over the wild Eastern Cape coast last hear, and those fireside chats about its tumultuous history so honestly depicted in your brilliant book, The Native Commissioner. Good morrow to our waking souls.#RIPShaunJohnson pic.twitter.com/RnwkGo2K3f
— mpush ntabeni (@mpushntabeni) February 25, 2020
My friend and former journalist Shaun Johnson died unexpectedly yesterday. A lovely man and a really good South African. I will miss him.
— Peter Bruce (@Bruceps) February 25, 2020
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