Doing life with Mandela. My Prisoner, My friend by Christo Brandt
with Barbara Jones.
If you have read Long Walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela’s
autobiography, you will have a good idea as to some of the stories
in this revealing and fascinating book. It gives a very different
view of Mandela’s circumstances from a very unique angle.
The first half deals with Madiba’s 26 years incarceration on
Robben Island as a political prisoner and his relationships with
other prisoners and Christo his Warder, who become the very best of
friends, however weird that might sound.
Here are a couple of poignant extracts I thought would reveal
something more about the very special man Nelson Mandela was.
“He wanted to meet all of them and find out their names. I was
seeing quite a lot of Mandela at that time. We were constantly
bumping into each other in the corridors of Parliament.
(This is sometime after Mandela became our first democratic
One day, when the first draft of the Constitution was ready for
signing, I was on my way to the Executive Office with some copies.
It was the most important document you could have in your hands,
and it was my job to deliver it. But, as I passed mandela’s
office, where he had once met Botha, during a trip from prison, he
was standing in the doorway.
he called me in, ignoring my protests about the urgent delivery.
He made me sit down and tell him if I was enjoying the job. He
kept saying “Arrr, that’s good, that’s good.” Finally he let me go
with my precious pile of papers, but not before he had autographed
one of them for me. So I was the first person to have the
Presidential seal on documents that were our countries new laws.
One day I heard that the big office that was now Mandela’s had been
renovated for him and a secret escape hatch had been found behind
a cupboard. When you went through the cupboard, there was an
escalator leading all the way underground to Cape Towns main
railway station. A helicopter landing pad had been installed on
the roof of the building. Botha, rightly paranoid, had needed an
exit strategy, just in case. Mandela gave orders to have it sealed
up. He hadn’t spent most of his life in prison to start hatching
escape plans at this stage.”
(The below is another excellent example of Mandelas deep compassion
for the people around him. Riaan is Christo’s eldest son and when
Christo wanted him to go to Varsity, Riaan really wanted to go on
a Scuba Diving course. mandela had a chat to Riaan and told
Christo that Riaan has really made up his mind to do what he loves
and Christo should not force him to do something he doesn’t want to
do. Madiba paid for Riaans diving diploma course and diving gear.
Just as Riaan was developing a good carreer in construction diving,
he was killed in a car crash at the age of 24, which leads into the
“When my phone rang, it startled both of us. I pulled over to take
the call and heard mandela’s voice. He said “I heard about your
boy. It is a terrible thing when a parent has to bury his child.
I understand how it feels because I lost my own son in the same
way. I wish I could give you some strength to bear this.
Mandela’s oldest son, Tembekele, had died in a car crash in 1969
when he was 24 years old. Mandela was then incarcerated in Robben
Island before I went there, and had been refused permission to
attend the funeral. It remained one of the greatest sorrows of his
life. Now he was telling me that I had to believe in something.
I had to believe that Riaan was in a better place.
It helped my wife and I and our youngest son, Heindrecht, to know
that people cared.”
“On behalf of our family, we are deeply humbled to stand where men
of such courage faced injustice and refused to yield. The World is
grateful for the heros of Robben Island, who remind us that no
shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.” US
President Barak Abarmar’s message in the visitors book on Robben
Island – 30 June 2013.
Christo’s intense and unique story is riddled with Madiba’s deep
compassion, love of children, love of the ordinary people, his
family and the deep thoughtfulness Madiba displayed pretty much all
his life. He was and will always be remembered as South Africa’s
favourite Statesman. If you want a story of Madiba with a diffrent
and interesting perspective, this book is a highly recommended
Blogger Barry: Thanks for your time. Hope you enjoyed. Please
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Barry Blomkamp Nd. Bsc (UL)
Professional Public Speaker, Trainer and Corporate Entertainer,
Motivational speaker, Guest & Key note speaker, Seminar &
Conference speaker, Team Builder, Comedian, Master of Ceremonies,
For your Strategic Planning sessions, Management or Sales meetings,
Conferences and/or Seminars, Award functions, Year end parties,
Cape Town, South Africa.