Roberts was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, and received a national scholarship to study at Bailliol College, Oxford in the United Kingdom and then on to Harvard Law School, USA when he received his Masters.
Roberts has written books on the lives of South African President Thabo Mbeki, Nobel Prize in literature winner Nadine Gordimer and American jurist Clarence Thomas.He also writes columns for the website thoughtleader.co.za and Empire magazine, and is a regular letter writer and guest columnist in several South African newspapers.
In 2004 Gordimer refused to authorize Roberts' biography of her, and both Bloomsbury Publishing in London and Farrar, Straus and Giroux publishers in New York withdrew from the project as a result.. The following year saw insults traded between the two in what was described as a "war of words" and a "feud".
His work on Thabo Mbeki was heavily criticized as a hagiography. Also controversial was the sponsorship of the book by major banking group Absa, which contributed R1.43 million towards it. The sponsorship was alleged to have been organized by Essop Pahad, who as Minister in the Presidency reported directly to Mbeki.
In 2007 author Anthony Brink accused Roberts of plagiarizing sections of the biographyand launched a campaign to publicize the claim by way of an e-booktitled Lying and thieving: The fraudulent scholarship of Ronald Suresh Roberts in 'Fit to Govern: The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki' .
The relationship between Roberts and the South African media has been rocky, with allegations of censorship abounding. Roberts accused Gordimer of censorship by trying to prevent the publication of the biography. Roberts himself has several times demanded apologies from various newspapers including The Sunday Times and has been granted at least one retraction. Roberts has also accused Business Day editor Peter Bruce of censoring his opinions; in a 2007 column Mail & Guardian editor Ferial Haffajee said Roberts "tests my commitment to freedom of expression".The New York Times discussed the issue in article in the Sunday Book review entitled 'Nadine Gordimer and the hazards of biography' by Rachel Donadio found at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/31/books/review/31donadio.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all