page 2012/41-42 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 42) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_042.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-42


Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 42) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_042.jpg]


  • 2011 (Creation)

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Verne Harris

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Page 42 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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It is consistent with Mandela’s statement that he didn’t know Gregory well while he was on Robben Island that the Island is not included in the years ‘he had looked after me’. And yet, for Gregory, those Island years were the most significant as those were the years he changed his political ideas let alone his attitude towards the Rivonians. And all because of his lengthy discussions with Mandela.

Although Gregory’s book has never been reprinted, not even with the release of the movie in 2007, the nature of the internet means that Gregory’s story is high up the Google lists. The accusations that Gregory had exaggerated his friendship with Mandela or ‘reworked’ certain incidents did not deter the producers and the director of the movie. By then Anthony Sampson’s authoritative biography had appeared dismissing Gregory’s distortions. Sampson wrote: In December 1966 a new warder, James Gregory, arrived on the island. He had been brought up as a child among Zulus, and spoke Zulu and Xhosa fluently. He was later to achieve fame through his much-promoted book Goodbye Bafana, which described conversations with his famous prisoner. In fact Mandela had not known Gregory very well, but, as he put it, ‘he knew us, because he had been responsible for reviewing our incoming and outgoing mail.’ In his book Gregory presented himself as a naive country boy who was surprised to find the prisoners far better educated than himself, and soon recognised Mandela as a real leader, ‘the perfect gentleman’. But the warders who became genuine friends of the prisoners, like Christo Brand, were very suspicious of Gregory; and the prisoners were always aware that Gregory was spying on them, eavesdropping on visitors and intercepting mail, as part of the intelligence system of the Security Branch. (pg217)

Later, Sampson writes, Many ex-Robben Islanders balked at [Mandela’s] more extreme acts of forgiveness... And they were baffled by his leniency

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