page 2012/41-15 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 15) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_015.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-15


Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 15) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_015.jpg]


  • 2011 (Creation)

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Verne Harris

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Page 15 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
James Gregory

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Access by permission of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

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  • English

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unforgettable smell of incarceration which was to remain with me for much of the next three decades. (p92)

Gradually Gregory began to realise that his prisoners were ‘cultured people’ (p117). He was drawn to Mandela and recorded that he was soon walking about the yard with him discussing the history of the ANC and the horrors of apartheid. On his days off he would visit Cape Town Library to get another perspective on Mandela’s version of history. Here he also claimed to have read the Freedom Charter. This was unlikely as at the time – the late 1960s - the Freedom Charter was banned and only issued with special permission to accredited researchers. According to his book, he rounded off his research by reading the various apartheid acts.

Each time I went to the library I returned more angry than before, angry at being cheated by politicians who lied. (p122) A few pages on he writes, I began to call Mandela by his first name, Nelson. It seemed less harsh if not friendly. Then, with a belief that we were no longer enemies, I began to accept him and his ANC comrades without actually realising it. (p125)

Gregory continued as the main censor of the prisoners’ letters, although he was becoming increasingly disenchanted with life on Robben Island. He applied for other postings in 1973 and 1974 and in mid-1975 threatened to resign if he was not transferred elsewhere. The department posted him to Pollsmoor but some nine months later wanted to send him back to Robben Island because the censors had resigned. A compromise was reached and Gregory was assigned to Roeland Street Prison from where he would handle the letters and visits to the island. He would now work daily in a small office on the quay where the island ferry docked, and occasionally visit the island to supervise a visit.

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