Journalists Jonathan Ancer and Chris Whitfield chat about Joining the Dots (Jonathan Ball), their book about Pravin Gordhan.
An unauthorised biography is usually one written without the cooperation of the subject, and it can become a hatchet job.
For Ancer and Whitfield, it meant they did not set out to write a hagiography. They were free to try to dig up any dirt on Gordhan and try to deal with his detractors' sometimes outrageous accusations. They did have some help from Gordhan, though; after much trying, they spoke to the man himself - an episode recounted rather amusingly.
Pravin Gordhan | Miscreants of corruption still remain in the system
It wasn't easy, Ancer writes, to get Gordhan to speak. They were told, repeatedly, in different variations, that "PG doesn't like talking about himself". But, in the end, "we managed to achieve where the Guptas had failed: we wore him down".
Ultimately, they conducted several interviews with Gordhan, who "had facts and figures at his fingertips and recalled extraordinary details from events half a century ago". His stamina was such that, after one long session, Gordhan told Ancer: "You look more tired than I do." And Gordhan still had another meeting to attend.
The book takes the reader through Gordhan's youth, his emerging political sensibility and his service to the underground struggle against apartheid, when his pharmacy became a sort of front for illegal activism. His work at the South African Revenue Service is described, as is his conflict with then president Jacob Zuma over issues such as the nuclear deal with Russia.
It's a story that reminds one of what Gordhan has been through in his defence of South Africa's democracy and his battle for good governance. It is thus also an account of a turbulent and painful time in South Africa's history, and it deepens one's admiration of a man who, through it all, kept fighting the good fight.
Join executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Neeshan Balton, as he talks to authors Chris Whitfield and Jonathan Ancer about their unauthorised biography of Pravin Gordhan.
The discussion will begin at 19:00.