page 2012/41-20 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 20) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_020.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-20

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Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 20) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_020.jpg]

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  • 2011 (Creation)

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Verne Harris

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Page 20 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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as much as you did then. It is important you remember that they mean the words even though they cannot feel them.’ (p330)

In Goodbye Bafana it was Gregory who brought Mandela this tragic news about Thembi and Gregory who the following day went to comfort his prisoner. The next day I went to his cell again and I stood beside him. At first I wasn’t sure if he even knew I was there. He just stood, his eyes fixed on the sky. ‘If you want me to go, I shall,’ I said. There was the merest shake of his head. ‘No, stay,’ he said. I continued, ‘I can’t tell you how deeply sorry I am because I don’t know the depth of sorrow you are now feeling. I also have children, I have two boys but I can’t even begin to pretend to know how you are hurting. Many people will come to you now and tell you how they understand how you are feelings. Those people are talking through their hats, but each of them genuinely feels for you without understanding’ (p144).

In Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Gregory is not mentioned in the passages dealing with Thembi’s death. Instead Mandela remembered being called to the main office where he was handed a one-line telegram from his youngest son, Makgatho, informing him of the death.

It left a hole in my heart that can never be filled, Mandela wrote. I returned to my cell and lay on my bed. I do not know how long I stayed there, but I did not emerge for dinner. Some of the men looked in, but I said nothing. Finally, Walter came to me and knelt beside my bed, and I handed him the telegram. He said nothing, but only held my hand. I do not know how long he remained with me. There is nothing that one man can say to another at such a time. (p531)

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