page 2012/41-16 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 16) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_016.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-16


Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 16) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_016.jpg]


  • 2011 (Creation)

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1 digital image
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Verne Harris

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Page 16 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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On his first return trip to the island he reported that he went to see Mandela. He stood and held out his hand, his face beaming: ‘Man, am I glad to see you. I heard you were coming back. We’d all like to extend a very warm welcome.’ (p188)

When the Rivonians were moved to Pollsmoor in 1982, Gregory was posted there too. He would later write that he oversaw Mandela’s first contact visit with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and that he was present during the two bouts of hospitalisation that Mandela underwent for prostate cancer in 1985 and then for TB in 1988. Once his TB infection had cleared, Mandela was installed at Victor Verster Prison. Again Gregory went with him, his entire family moving into a house on the prison grounds.

It was here that a theme from Gregory’s school days reasserted itself: Gregory as a victim of hostile and jealous antagonists.

He reported in his autobiography a series of incidents that he endured at the hands of his fellow warders. On one occasion, while walking the dog on a summer evening, someone hiding behind a hedge called him a ‘kaffir boetie’. I would look around and not see anyone. It happened every time I went out. Whenever I went I was greeted with silence. A walk through the residential area would usually be expected to lead to normal conversation. But I found mostly hostile looks and people who deliberately turned their back. (p320)

Then the situation escalated to the edge of physical violence. One Saturday afternoon Gregory popped into the warders’ club to buy a six-pack of beer. In his book he described a noisy ‘typical bar-room scene’ but the atmosphere changed the instant he stepped in, much like the sheriff stepping into a bar in a spaghetti western.

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