page 2012/41-28 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 28) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_028.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-28


Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 28) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_028.jpg]


  • 2011 (Creation)

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1 digital image
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Verne Harris

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Page 28 of Nelson Mandela's Warders

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Access by permission of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

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  • English

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Unlike Gregory, whose first impression of the cells summons up the stereotypical odour of urine and sweat and disinfectant, Brand experienced polish and freshness. ‘I see how disciplined they are with their studies, with polishing, not like a criminal prison which is dirty, here everything is in place. In their cells it was fresh, it was a clean place not that bad smell.’

Brand’s experience with the Rivonians began with Andrew Mlangeni who greeted him in Afrikaans, much to Brand’s surprise both at the gesture and the choice of language. But greetings, and discussions about letters and visits were the only contact he had with the prisoners. Orders strictly forbade any fraternising. Brand first encountered Nelson Mandela when he escorted him to the visitor’s centre, a distance of about three hundred metres. While they walked, Mandela asked him about his parents, his origins, his family. He suggested he should study further so that he could advance himself. And when they returned to B Section, Mandela asked Brand to take greetings to his parents.

‘I couldn’t understand why he thought I should take greetings from a prisoner to them,’ recalls Brand. ‘I thought this was very strange, that he should worry about me.’

A few months later Brand started working in the censor office and his contact with the Rivonians increased. Letters were a point of contention. Prisoners could only receive a specific number of letters monthly, but had to acknowledge receipt of each letter they received – even those over the quota. These the prisoner had to sign off in a register although he was not allowed to read them. The prisoner also had to acknowledge receipt of letters that had not been approved by the censors. These letters would be docked from the quota. Failure to comply with this system could result in the prisoner being barred from sending or receiving letters. In Brand’s words,

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