Obituary: Sunny Bramdaw, editor of ‘the leader’

2013-03-28 00:00

THE former editor and publisher of The Leader newspaper, Sunil Rai (Sunny) Bramdaw, died yesterday morning after a bout of pneumonia.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007 and lived at the Aryan Benevolent Home in Durban.

Bramdaw originally lived in Pietermaritzburg and attended Woodlands High School until his parents, Saraswati and Dhanee Bramdaw, sent him and his five siblings to study in London.

He studied at Chicheley Hall in Buckinghamshire and at Whittlebury Lodge College in Northampton. He returned to South Africa in 1962 and joined the family-owned newspaper, The Leader.

The Bramdaw family moved to Durban after their Pietermaritzburg property was expropriated in terms of the Group Areas Act. This led to the end of a 25-year relationship with The Witness, which had printed The Leader.

Bramdaw was an outspoken journalist and was arrested and targeted by the National Party government. He counted former president Nelson Mandela and struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada among his friends.

He allowed another close friend, Ismail Meer, to write a column in his newspaper while being banned. The column was published under the name of his brother, A.C. Meer.

Other close friends were Selby Msimang, Steve Biko, Strini Moodley and current finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Under Bramdaw’s editorship, The Leader covered political and socio-economic issues, and strove to be the voice of the voiceless. It provided a fertile training ground for black journalists. Many of the leading staff in mainstream newspapers and on radio and television trained at the newspaper. With Bramdaw at the helm, The Leader won numerous awards, including the Nissan Capro Award for best regional newspaper.

Bramdaw was also the founder of the Black Editors’ Forum.

A founding member of the Media Workers’ Association of South Africa, Marlan Padayachee, said Bramdaw was the only editor to support black journalists during a 14-week strike for equality in the newsroom in 1981.

“His newsroom and newspaper were always open to us,” Padayachee said.

Bramdaw is survived by his sons, Nikhil and Nirode, and grandchildren, Rahil and Shriya. His funeral will take place in Durban today.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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