page 2012/41-3 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 3) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_003.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-3


Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 3) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_003.jpg]


  • 2011 (Creation)

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Verne Harris

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Page 3 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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two men as Mandela prepared to leave Victor Verster prison. This informality, this apparent friendliness, enhances the intimacy of the warder/prisoner relationship Gregory is at pains to create in his book.

In the last few years Brand has moved into the position of ‘the guard who really was Mandela’s friend’, to quote a newspaper headline (The Observer, 20 May 2007). He does not turn down any media approaches to recount his experiences with Mandela during the prison years. For the most part his accounts remain flexible narratives, where the details change slightly with every telling even if, with each repetition, the core story has taken on a verisimilitude. The annals according to Christo Brand have become the yardstick. James Gregory’s widow, Gloria Gregory, believes that Brand is trying to usurp the glory that was Gregory’s.

Gregory was at work on establishing his relationship with Mandela prior to the publication of his book. In 1994 he told the journalist Benjamin Pogrund, ‘[Mandela] always called me Mr Gregory and I addressed him as Nelson. When visitors came I would address him as Mr Mandela. After he was released he phoned me here at home and I said, “Hello, Mr Mandela,” and he said, “Where does this mister suddenly come from? You call me Nelson as you always did.” He now calls me James.’ (The Independent, 11 February 1994) There is more than a hint of claiming proprietary rights in Gregory’s declaration: ‘He now calls me James.’

Both Gregory with his book and Brand in his interviews have foregrounded their proximity to Mandela the prisoner. There were other prison officials in Mandela’s orbit, particularly Major Marais in the last months, but these officials have made no claim to Mandela since he left Victor Verster. Nor, for that matter, has Jack Swart. He has spoken about his time with Mandela only infrequently and reluctantly. He has recently vowed never to do so

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