page 2012/41-37 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 37) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_037.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-37


Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 37) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_037.jpg]


  • 2011 (Creation)

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Verne Harris

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Page 37 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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paperback edition with the copyright assigned to the French publishers, Editions Robert Laffont.

Of course, what made Gregory’s autobiography so compelling from a publishing point of view was his relationship with Nelson Mandela, at that stage only five years out of prison, and one year into his presidency. As is evident above, detailed in these pages was an extraordinary relationship: that of warder and prisoner. And of how the warder who initially regarded his prisoner as a terrorist who should be hanged, came to change his mind. Twelve years later this story would be filmed under the same title, and again the world would wonder at the poignant bond between the two men. By then Gregory had died, and Mandela was gradually retiring from the public stage.

In 1995, the floodgates on the Mandela publishing industry had yet to open. Mandela’s own autobiography had appeared the previous year and there were a handful of photographic books as well as accounts of his life by Fatima Meer (Higher Than Hope) and Mary Benson (Nelson Mandela: The Man and the Movement). So Gregory’s book came at the right time, and it presented a unique portrait of the man who had been locked up for twenty-seven years. A man Gregory had known for twenty-two of those years.

But, in many respects, Gregory’s version of his relationship with Mandela sat at odds with the way Mandela wrote of the warder. Indeed, Gregory featured on three occasions only in Long Walk to Freedom and although on each occasion Mandela wrote warmly of him, it hardly suggested the intimate talks and moments that Gregory presented in his book. Especially as contact with the prisoners was strongly disapproved of by the authorities. As has been stated, warders were under strict orders to go no further than greeting prisoners. Certainly in the Island years, it is highly unlikely that Gregory would have been able to spend the time with Mandela that he claims.

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