Mandela’s unlikely friendship with his prison guard

Mandela’s unlikely friendship with his prison guard


As we took Mandela to the beach that evening
it was dark, with a little bit of light from the streets here. The water was more high
tide. First he didn’t believe we owned the beach, he heard the sound but he wanted to
feel the water you know. And he tasted it, take this the water, and just taste it to
feel if it was really salt on the beach. And we showed him the direction to Robben Island.
We said “that is Robben Island”. He first think it was a big ship because it had its
lights on and there were a few lights on on that evening because at security points they
had lights on. Otherwise it was dark. 1970s South Africa: amidst the turmoil of
the apartheid regime, an unlikely friendship was blossoming. The first time when we drove Mandela in a
car, it was in 1980/81. It was a Ford Cortina. There was quite a lot of time we were taking
him. I would say at least every second month. I think Mandela enjoyed it in a way. But he
was not secure when he was sitting maybe alone for a few minutes because he was become nervous
“Where is his warden, we must look after him” because we didn’t know what to expect, other
people may attack him-he was afraid. The lives of Nelson Mandela — South Africa’s
most notorious political prisoner – and Christo Brandt- his guard – were intertwined for more
than 10 years. It became a long-lasting friendship: a relationship that broke all the rules of
the apartheid regime. The men’s backgrounds couldn’t be any more different. Mandela – a
lawyer with royal blood, and Brandt – a white working class farmer’s son. I was eighteen years old when I started work
on Robben Island, I never heard about the name Nelson Mandela at all. 1978 was a harsh winter in Cape Town. The first time I was on a boat-a big boat-
was to Robben Island Brandt had no idea what he was getting himself
into. I always heard about it, because there are
big bad criminals on Robben Island, murderers. So I when I got out there I was also a little
bit nervous, when I got to Robben Island. Brandt was immediately put to work in the
so-called B-section: the wing reserved for the prison’s most dangerous inmates. By this
point, Mandela had been locked up for 15 years. Young Brandt went about his work with no idea
of who the prisoners were. The prisonors greet friendly, in some of the
prison still standing up, made their beds, ready for inspection. And they all greet friendly
here. And I see old people. So I came back to the sergeant, and they count the prisoners,
and they open up to empty out the toilet pots and clean up, and then later that day I said
to the sergeant, ‘what are these criminal in for?’ Because life, Nelson Mandela, life,
only life. And he said ‘that’s the people who tried to overthrow the country, those
are the terrorists of the country.’ And then immediately I feel hatred towards these guys,
because my friend died in the army and training in 1977, we attended his funeral 3 months
later after he was in training, killed on the border. So I hated those people immediately,
because they’re the ones who killed my friend. Mandela was condemned to life imprisonment
and exiled to the island in 1964. This was the last image the world got to see of him
before his incarceration. When Christo Brandt began his work as a prison guard, the outside
world didn’t know what Mandela looked like anymore. His name was well-known, but his face was
not familiar to the people. In fact, the regime was so sure he wouldn’t
be recognised that it allowed Mandela and Brandt to visit a hospital in the heart of
the city. From 1981, South Africa’s public enemy number one walked regularly through
the city of Cape Town. When we walked he would ask us questions about
the new cars on the road, he was amazed. He would always look at the cars and things and
he said the people are busy, it’s a very busy street. He was afraid to walk over the street,
‘is it ok’, ‘it’s clear now’ and we walked straight over the street. But he didn’t want
to walk without us over the street, he was afraid to just approach the street, we must
lead him by the arm, I was like ‘Come, Mandela’. Back on the island, Mandela was subjected
to a continued regime of humiliation and oppression. But he did not react with anger. In his autobiography
he wrote: “The most important person in any prisoner’s
life is not the minister of justice, not the commissioner of prisons, not even the head
of the prison, but the warden in one’s section.” “In general we treated the wardens as they
treated us. Yet, being friendly with wardens was not an easy proposition, for they generally
found the idea of being courteous to a black man abhorrent.” And Mandela said one day himself, he said
when he asked officers he put in writing that he wanted extra blankets at that time to sleep
on the floor, the officer said ‘Prisoners are only allowed three blankets, extra blanket
has not been approved.’ And he sometimes asked a normal warder who he was friendly with,
who he had become friends with, asked her ‘hey warder, it’s very cold tonight, is there
not an extra blanket?’ And they said ‘No, sure’ and goes get him one, ‘just put it out
tomorrow morning’. Tomorrow morning he first puts the blanket out, and he says sometimes
he gets more right with normal warders on a lower rank than he gets with an officer.
Because they understand, because they’re up close, we’d become very close. In early 1980s, Mandela’s health deteriorated.
He developed problems with his lungs and prostate. The regime in Pretoria began to worry that
his death in prison might lead to a national uprising. Christo Brandt continued to accompany
Mandela to the hospital. They often came to this hospital, just outside the Cape Town
city centre. It was those three windows, was the cells
where they kept him. When they do hospital visits, when they go for hospital operations,
anything, they host in those rooms. That is why the bars are on. The surgeons were not deemed trustworthy;
Brand was therefore present in the operating room during Mandela’s surgeries. The thing was they were afraid that Mandela
was not secure, that they could wake him up in theatre, that the doctors could ask him
questions and things, he can talk in theatre, they don’t want him to say anything to the
doctors. He can greet them, but they dont want him to communicate with the doctors,
because the government didn’t trust all the doctors who worked on him. Brandt was also under strict observation.
His boss regularly turned up at the hospital. It happened also in this hospital, there was
a guy James Gregory, he was my superior, and when Mandela went for operations he must be
reported to Pretoria when Mandela’s awake, he talk to us, he’d communicate, he’s fine.
And that day he wanted to go, he was in a hurry, and Mandela was being operated on,
and Mandela didn’t want to come around. He still sleeping. And he said to him ‘Kaffa
we’re going to kill you, the Whites are on you’, and he sweared him off. And Mandela
grumbled and tried to think, and when he recovered later, Gregory was not there. Then he asked
me later, ‘hey, I had a funny dream’, and I said ‘What funny dream?’, and he said he
heard this voice, people calling him ‘kaffa’ all day. And I said ‘oh I didn’t hear anything’,
because I couldn’t tell him Gregory had done that. From 1984 onwards, the apartheid regime began
to carefully reach out the ANC leaders. Speaking directly with terrorists was out of the question.
But President Botha wanted to know what Mandela would do if granted a parole. The Secret Service
contacted Christo Brandt; his relationship with Mandela appeared useful. Brand was asked
to approach Mandela with a few specific questions. I walked in and I was bugged, and I showed
him that I was bugged. That’s the sign, before I even asked him, I made a sign, and I showed
him, and then I showed him again because he didn’t think. Then it clicked and he said
me it’s fine, I understand. And I asked him certain questions, that same evening on television
they repeated that type of things which I asked and the response of Mandela, and their
responses on Mandela’s response. And I was like, hey, that the question I asked Mandela,
and he responded that, and PW Botha just talked the opposite of what we asked him. If Mandela were to say that he wanted constitutional
rights … ‘He does not want it, he stated it over and over again.’ Botha was a hardliner; if he had his way,
Mandela would stay behind bars. But the increasing violence across the country and economic sanctions
from the international community forced the regime to negotiate with the ANC. Meanwhile,
the story of Nelson Mandela entered the spotlight yet again. He could walk with his guards through
Cape Town no more. People wanted to know more about Mandela,
they wanted Mandela to be released now, there was more pressure on Mandela’s release. And
then we became more security-wise, taking him in private cars, not in a government car,
in government ambulance, in a buggy cart, like a prisoner. He was in private clothing,
also dressed not in prison uniform anymore. We tried to make him feel he was part of the
community, but not allowing people to recognise him. After almost 26 years in the Robben Island
and Pollsmoore prisons, Christo Brandt escorted his prisoner to his next home – the Victor
Verster prison. Nelson Mandela serves the last two years of his sentence in a villa
formerly occupied by the prison director. It was also very strange for him you know.
When we walked one day in the kitchen, when we walked him out there, he said ‘why a TV
in the kitchen?’ And we said ‘no, no it’s a microwave’. He didn’t understand a microwave,
we showed him how the thing worked, and how to warm up your food. He started learning
new equipment. 11 February 1990, the day of Mandela’s release,
went down in history. Crowds surrounded the prison gate to get the first glimpse of the
new leader. Helicopters hovered above the villa, with millions waiting in suspense in
front of their TVs. Obviously the day before that he went to greet
him and see him off, and tell him he must keep strong, that we must keep in touch, and
then he left. Christo Brandt was Mandela’s guard for 12
years. In 1992, Mandela became his president. After his release the two men lost contact.
But in 1995, the former prisoner called his guard to offer him a job in the presidential
office. Tonight I want to welcome somebody here who
has become like a father to me during those years, his name is Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The two friends worked happily together for
years.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell

51 Comments

  1. #journeymanweekly 24/06: Mandela's unlikely friend, lethal Malaysian smog, Snowdon runs to Ecuador & transgender kids Guarding Mandela

  2. Killed him for what?Defending his country and heritage from racist Caucasoid invaders.Whites from Britain treated blacks like the whites in America in the 1950s.Whites only beaches,whites only restaurants,etc.Now it is backfiring on you whites,immigrants are flooding Britain,America,Australia,Canada,and Russia.Whites will never experience the level of racism and discrimination they have served,but God will pay them back,come Judgement Day.

  3. well…tolerance and forgiveness are not easy for sure. Yet by all accounts South Africa now is not exactly an oppressive Hitler-like society towards its white citizens. Yet it had been a segregation based society towards majority black population. So just accept the reality and embrace it…. and thanks to Nelson Mandela for all he has done

  4. So what if I am from Europe and lived in US for many years…my college roommate was black, I am white….I really don't see any problem with that. What matters now is that yes SA is a democracy, a country of majority-rule and yes Mandela helped to bring it about. What matters to me is DEMOCRACY and if there are mistakes made by the present SA government – they deserve to be talked about and must be dealt with, but not in a hateful, rather in a democratic way.

  5. It's not a great loss for humanity – He has done great things earlier – but he is old and we all die at some time.

  6. Nelson Mandela is a former terrorist. He was the founder of Umkhonto we Siswe, ANC’s terrorist arm. He never condemned that organization’s acts of indiscriminate terrorism against civilians. The ANC was classified as a terrorist organization by the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Mandela was also responsible for signing off on the Church Street bombing in Pretoria 1983, which killed 19 and wounded more than 200, mostly families in a busy shopping street during rush hour.

  7. im kind of skeptical too of mandela's merits, i just don't see anyone leader acheiving power without funding from interest groups such as the elite bankers and royal families of developed nations.

  8. "Nelson Mandela is a former terrorist."
    Sure he was just like George Washington. Thank you for the revelation.

  9. Whether you see the man as a 'terrorist' or freedom fighter, whatever your view is. No one can deny that he stood up for what he believed in, suffered and made a very big impact not just on South Africa, but the entire world! Very few people would have the will to do what he did, what a brave man!

  10. Why is it that EVERY white country is forced to be multicultural/multiracial?
    Why is it that EVERY white country is told to end its own race/culture?
    No one asks that of -ANY- non-White country.
    Immigration/assimilation is FORCED upon ONLY White countries
    Anti-whites call themselves “anti-racists” but their actions lead to the elimination of only one race, the White race.
    The purpose of “anti-racism” is to genocide White children.
    Anti-racist is a code for anti-White
    /watch?v=203-BKE5MgU

  11. I met this man in 2000 with a colleague, Per Graversen on a trip with the Aarhus Youth School. 
    He had a souvenir shop, just by the quayside to the ferry to Robbin island. We had a long chat about his relationship with Nelson Mandela. Mandela also taught many of his guards, (who were specially chosen for their hatred of black South Africans, and many of them were illiterate) all they way up to university level. Many graduated. He did all this, whilst tutoring his fellow prisoners.
    Tutoring his guards had to take place in deepest secrecy, as the authorities would have put a stop to it, if found out.
    What a story!!

  12. We should all bow down n let england steal n colonise whatever country it wants…..should we fuck….Madiba fought with n for his country men n women…..the same way us Irish fight for the six counties they stole from us….Tíocfaidh Ár La!!! By bomb or by gun the deed shall be done!!!That smelly nazi whore of a queen cant run a yard nevermind her country….so get the fuck out of mine,they call the IRA terroists….We want what is ours….That aul cunt will burn in Hell with Thatcher… Béir Bua 26+6=1! REST IN PEACE OGLÁCH NELSON MANDELA…MADIBA ALWAYS REMEMBERED NEVER FORGOTTEN!!! FTQ GBTP

  13. Mandela saved this country from endless civil war and mineral theft and underworld systems would have been the way of life like in great lakes region and central africa 

  14. Can anyone help me understand what Brandt called Nelson Mandela in the very last minute of the video when he introduces him at around 10:17 (on stage).
    Thanks!

  15. THE NEW BOOK, STARLIGHT IN THE RING by H. N. Quinnen tells the story of Betty Baker in an amazing way – more information, entertainment and inspiration about Nelson Mandela's call for forgiveness and reconciliation, and the South Africa's Apartheid Laws.

  16. I arrived in South Africa in 1992. I have lived there ever since. I must say, it is a beautiful country, with many resources. I do not have the political language to express all that has happened, but I can say this country is currently stretched to its limit. Resources are being used in ways that do not benefit those whom it was intended to benefit. Yet there is a true potential in it, that will only come out when ignorance, and greed are dealt with. These are world problems, not SA alone's. Yet, I feel with the passing of Mr. Mandela, if indeed the foundations he laid out are really strong, the foundations of freedom, peace, and understanding, we will be strong enough to face the coming winter.

  17. Mandela
    The spin on Mandela was that he was sentenced to 27 years for his resistance to state tyranny.
    Umkhonto we Sizwe, terrorist wing of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party. Head of this terrorist wing. Plead guilty to 156 acts of terrorism including planting of bombs in public places. He was head of this terrorist wing for 2 eyars befroe he was arrested in 1962. This terrorist organization then went on to plant bombs in various places, including in churches and was responsible for many deaths to men, women, and children. These were people murdered by the organization that Mandela was the head of.
    Mandela never renounced the violence or condemned it. Any government in the world would have locked him up. He was put in jail for ordering these bombings. He was found with 50,000 landmines which had been sent to him by the communist government in Russia.
    President Botha visited Mandela and offered to release him if he would renounce the violence and bombings. Mandela refused.
    When he became President of South Africa. He purchased massive amounts of weaponry. He also became cozy with other violent dictators around the world, including Qaddafi in Libya and Castro in Cuba. We know that communism in the 20th century was responsible for far more deaths than even the Nazis. Just one example, we know there 70 million people slaughtered in Russia alone. A pattern which we saw over and over again regarding communism. Just execute anyone who can read, or is outspoken, and happens to disagree with the communists. Mao Tse Tung in China. Castro, Stalin, Phnom Penn in Cambodia… Mandela.
    Today, the majority of South Africans, including blacks say they were better off under the apartheid government. Police and government corruption is rampant. Transparency International released it's 2013 report on government corruption and rated the current South African government as the highest, most corrupt in the world. South Africa now averages 59 murders daily. This amounts to about 1 murder per 2,413 every year! This easily makes it the most violent country in the world. Rape and gang-rape in South Africa are also the highest in the world. Part of the reason for this is the ridiculous myth propagandized by "witch doctor" types who tell people that having sex with a virgin is a cure for Aids. Predictably, this has led to an increase in Aids. Today, 12% of South African citizens are H.I.V. positive. The ANC government has done nothing to stop the pandemic. Moreover, poverty amongst both withes and blacks has increased dramatically since the ANC took over in 1994. Fortunately, the Apartheid government had enough sense to destroy it's nuclear arsenal before leaving office.  
    The current post-Apartheid government and 80% majority black population is also arguably the most xenophobic in the world. In a 2006,  a survey by the South African Migration Project found that South Africans are more opposed to immigration than anywhere else in the world. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2008 reported over 200,000 refugees applied for asylum in South Africa, almost four times as many as the year before. These people were mainly from Zimbabwe, though many also come from Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Competition over jobs, business opportunities, public services and housing has led to tension between refugees and host communities.
    Mandela's second wife, Winnie, was about the most evil person one could imagine. She was convicted of the torture and murder of a 14 year old boy whom she accused of being an informant. She was also a big fan of what is called "necklacing." A practice in which a person is wrapped in barbed-wire, place a tire over the shoulders so they can't move, the pour gasoline into the rim of the tire and set fire to it. This was who Nelson chose to marry. We can only guess that her sick violence was only part of the atrtaction. Nelson knew these things about her when he married her.

  18. If Mandela didn't forgive what would happen between white south African black south African ? Anyway in Africa we need more competent like him

  19. ממש להפוך למנהל דיגיטל אחרי שסיימתה את הלימודים מצחיק מאד

  20. Wow! This story made me feel hope, sadness and gratitude for the peaceful transition after Nelson Mandela's release in 1990. Even though many died leading up to 1994, we avoided a civil war. This could be a movie in it's own right.

  21. Never say all prisoners are bad. Some prisoners come out amazing people. Some people only go to prison for oppression.

  22. Now it's time to return the land …Mandela honeymoon is over , polical freedom attained we want our economical freedom..we are going for the jugular

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