Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan reacts as ANC Youth League members interrupt a memorial service for anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada in Durban. Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters
Pravin Gordhan fought for freedom of speech for the very people who are now using that freedom to spread fake news about him, writes Dennis Pather.

With all the fake news doing the rounds, let me tell you a true story for a change. It was in the late 1980s when Pravin Gordhan - then working underground for the banned ANC - went missing before word got out he was being held in solitary confinement.

Under apartheid’s pernicious laws, the police were not obliged to inform anyone - not even Pravin’s wife - he was being held.

Newspapers had to use their own ingenuity to figure it out.

A local newspaper got wind that, after solitary confinement for several weeks, Gordhan had been taken to a local hospital for psychiatric treatment.

The editor checked this out and two reporters who knew Pravin saw him through the hospital window and waved. He waved back. That’s how they knew he was there.

The editor approached the local police office, but made no headway, except to be warned nothing was to be written about it.

The paper then informed Mrs Gordhan about what they knew, and helped her get in touch with the security branch, who, unaware of the newspaper’s earlier conversation with the police, confirmed he was in hospital.

She then told the paper of her conversation with the SB and the story revealing Gordhan’s whereabouts was splashed all over the front page the next day.

This episode came flooding back after I saw a poster being held up by an ANC Youth League supporter at this past week's Ahmed Kathrada memorial in Durban.

The poster caught my eye, not for any originality of thought or intellectual sharpness, but its inexcusable ignorance.

Aimed at Gordhan, it read: “Where were you during apartheid?” I’ll take the honour of answering that. He was fighting a revolution so everyone, including ill-informed placard bearers such as yourself, can today enjoy the fruits of democracy, including the right to protest.

His Struggle credentials are there for all to see, including his days of student activism, his role in setting up grass-roots community organisations, his underground activities in the ANC and SACP and the launch of the UDF. 

Pravin may be out in the cold, but rest assured he’s well insulated, both by the truth and support from South Africans.

The Sunday Independent