'We had a few arguments but we’re still friends': Groenink on writing about 'Mr Rogue'

Evelyn Groenink’s book about her husband, liberation movement veteran Ivan Pillay, is a portrait of a modest man trying to do his best to help rebuild the country through his work at Sars — before his life was turned upside down, writes Jonathan Ancer

13 December 2020 - 00:00 By Jonathan Ancer

I can’t stop thinking about a scene in Evelyn Groenink’s new book, The Unlikely Mr Rogue: A Life with Ivan Pillay. In 1974, when Sunny Singh was released after 10 years on Robben Island, he was handed back his trousers that were now way too big for him. He left the Durban Central police station holding up his pants with both his hands as he started to walk home. I can’t get the image out of my head of this great hero of the liberation movement struggling to keep his pants from falling to his ankles. I can taste his humiliation. Sunny Singh is not a household name — but he ought to be. He’s a courageous human rights activist who has dedicated his life to pursuing justice.

Mr Rogue is Ivan Pillay, Groenink’s husband, and another veteran of the liberation movement whose opponents during and after apartheid have tried to pull his pants down (figuratively speaking, of course). Unlike Singh, Pillay is a household name — sadly, not so much for his struggle heroism, but because he was embroiled in the painful South African Revenue Service (Sars) “rogue unit” saga that continues to haunt him, and the country. ..

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