page 2012/41-8 - Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 8) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_008.jpg]

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ZA COM NMFP-2012/41-2012/41-8


Nelson Mandela's Warders (page 8) [Nelson Mandela's Warders_008.jpg]


  • 2011 (Creation)

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Verne Harris

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Page 8 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Jack Swart

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Access by permission of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

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  • English

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days began at seven in the morning when he arrived to make breakfast, and ended in the late afternoon. When Swart came in, Mandela, as he had done all his life, would have made his own bed and been through his exercise regime. For most of those thirteen months the days repeated one another and Swart found them quiet and, in his words, ‘quite ordinary’. He showed his prisoner how to operate the washing machine as Mandela insisted on doing his own laundry. In the afternoon Swart made a meal which Mandela could heat up in the microwave later in the evening. By mutual agreement, they took turns in washing up the dishes, even though Swart had protested that it was part of his tasks.

Mandela supplies an addendum to this ‘mutual agreement’ in his book Nelson Mandela: Conversations with Myself when he writes, [Swart] was prepared to cook and wash the dishes. But ... I took it upon myself to break the tension and a possible resentment on his part that he has to serve a prisoner by cooking and then washing dishes and I offered to wash dishes and he refused. He says that is his task. I said, ‘No, we must share it!’ Although he insisted, and he was genuine, but I forced him, literally forced him, to allow me to do the dishes, and we established a very good relationship... A really nice chap, Warder Swart, a very good friend of mine...(p253)

Swart’s culinary skills became legendary, and Mandela’s guests looked forward to meals at Victor Verster. A typical meal in winter would have soup as a starter, a fruit or fish cocktail in summer, followed by fish or meat. The ingredients would have been bought by Swart.

‘There was a safe in the house which required two keys to open it. Nelson had one and the other was kept in the outside office. There was money in there or if there wasn’t enough he had an account at First National Bank. I

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