page 2012/41-21 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 21) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_021.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-21


Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 21) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_021.jpg]


  • 2011 (Creation)

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Verne Harris

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Page 21 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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Nor is there mention of Gregory’s compassion in Sampson’s biography. Which is strange as such a gesture by a prison warder at such a time would have made an impression. It is such discrepancies that raise questions about Gregory’s intentions of centreing himself in Mandela’s narrative.

Another such discrepancy occurs with Mandela’s birthday that year, 18 July 1989. According to Jack Swart the day began with a small champagne breakfast in the dining room. Marais was present as were Gregory and Swart. Who came up with the celebratory idea is forgotten but Swart remembered that they all had a glass but didn’t finish the bottle.

In Gregory’s book this event had been transposed to his own birthday.

On my birthday, 7 November [1989], Swart, Major Marais and I walked in [to Mandela’s room] with a tray for breakfast. Nelson looked up, a little surprised. He had been expecting his normal fishcakes, but I had planned something a little different, champagne. We four stood around the table swigging champagne, toasting the future. (p346)

The lead up to this paragraph was equally important. Gregory wrote about the afternoons when he and Mandela would sit in the garden in the shade of a tree, reading. It was a bucolic picture he painted of the warder and prisoner comfortable in one another’s company, not pressured into having to make conversation. It was a relationship of which Nelson once remarked, ‘We are similar in many ways. We can both dive deep into our own personalities to deal with our own thoughts and concerns, yet float on the surface and be available when need be to tend to one another.’ (p346)

It is this kind of introspection which Benjamin Pogrund believes was beyond Gregory’s emotional range. More bluntly, Jack Swart regards Gregory’s

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