page 2012/41-4 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 4) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_004.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-4


Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 4) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_004.jpg]


  • 2011 (Creation)

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1 digital image
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Verne Harris

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Page 4 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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again. Swart tells a different story from the one told by Warrant Officer James Gregory. In fact he tells a contradictory story. If Major Marais would talk, his testimony would, in all likelihood, lend more weight to Swart’s account. But Major Marais won’t talk ...

In his 1994 interview with Benjamin Pogrund, Gregory established the way he was going to project himself. The article began with a handwritten card Mandela gave Gregory: ‘The wonderful hours we spent together during the last two decades end today. But you will always be in my thoughts...’ Pogrund’s article continued: Later that hot summer’s day in the Cape, as the moment came for Mandela to walk out of Victor Verster prison, near Paarl, ‘We shook hands and then he embraced me,’ Gregory recalls. ‘He said, “Goodbye, I’ll see you again.” I wasn’t crying, neither was he, but he had tears in his eyes and so did I.’

In many respects the Pogrund article was a template for Gregory’s book: it set out the relationship between prisoner and jailer as open and friendly: ‘When he was alone I used to go and sit with him in his cell for hours at a time,’ says Gregory. ‘We spoke about everything – his family, my family. But never politics, and never trying to convince me of his views.’ Despite the exclusion of politics from their conversation, Gregory told Pogrund, and wrote in his autobiography, that Mandela explained to him the formation and struggle of the African National Congress. Whether this contradiction should be ascribed to a lapse of memory or a semantic difference in the meaning of the word politics is a matter for conjecture. In the Pogrund article Gregory also positioned himself as the senior warder in charge of the Rivonians (as they were referred to) and mentioned a gangster’s threat (one of many alluded to) to kill Mandela. Both these themes are prominent in Gregory’s book.

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