(page 24) - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Page 24 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Description: Page 24 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Transcript: Christo Brand
The last and the youngest of the three warders to be involved closely with Nelson Mandela and the Rivonians was Christo Brand. An innovative, energetic man, he is both charming and forthright, a storyteller more concerned to tell a good story than to consider his own role in the events he relays. Like Swart and Gregory he has the ability to compartmentalise his life: what happened at the prison stayed at the prison. The man who went home to his family never talked about what he’d witnessed or how he’d handled incidents behind the iron gates at Robben Island or Pollsmoor. At home he was husband and father.
Brand was nineteen years old when he arrived at Robben Island in 1978. The crossing had been rough, he had spent most of the time vomiting over the side of the ferry. He stood on the quay of the small harbour under a grey bleak sky on a grey bleak winter afternoon. He was cold, tired, wary. A kind of hell was in store for him and the other new recruits.
After his training at Kroonstad, Brand had asked for Pollsmoor. He wasn’t unhappy at being posted to Robben Island because at least he was close to home. He knew that to land up on Robben Island was equivalent to being sent to jail. No one volunteered to go there. To be assigned to Robben Island was a form of punishment. A warder who had been there twelve years told him: ‘The only way to leave here is resign or die.’
Brand was born in 1960 in Johannesburg some months before the family moved to the dorp of Rawsonville in the winelands of the Western Cape where his father had acquired a job as a farm foreman. In 1964 the family relocated to a farm near the seaside hamlet of Stanford and the following year Brand began his education at a farm school.
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