Mandela - My Prisoner, My Friend
Christo Brand was a South African farm boy, born into the Afrikaans culture which had created apartheid, a racial system designed to persecute black people while claiming superiority for white people. Nelson Mandela, the black son of a tribal chief, also raised in a rural village, trained as a lawyer to take up the fight against apartheid on behalf of a whole nation. Their opposing worlds collided when Christo, a raw recruit from the countrys prison service, was sent to Robben Island to guard the notoriously dangerous terrorists, Mandela was their undisputed leader.The two of them, a boy of 19 and a long-suffering freedom fighter then aged 60, should have become bitter enemies. Instead they formed an extraordinary friendship through small human kindnesses, Christo, a gentle young man who valued ordinary decency and courtesy, struck a chord with the wise and resilient freedom fighter a man who was prepared to die if necessary to liberate his people.As an African tribesman family was a priority for Mandela and he knew that his life imprisonment meant that he might never be able to live with them again. When his mother died he was refused permission to go to her funeral as the eldest son, Mandela held a great responsibility towards her, and he wept with shame and despair. Christo was witness to that despair many times during his years as Mandelas personal prison warder. He knew the heartbreak he suffered at never being able to see his children. So, when Winnie secretly brought their tiny granddaughter to Robben Island it was Christo who risked his own freedom to put the baby in Mandelas arms for a few moments.Their friendship was sealed by many such shared moments, sometimes merely a gesture or a smile, at other times an act of generosity which could have cost Christo his job. This bond of trust endured between the two men long after Mandela was freed. As President of South Africa he invited Christo into his home, advised his son Riaan on his career and gave Christo a job in the Constitutional Assembly in Parliament, drawing up the countrys new laws. Shortly before passing away he called for Christo again for the final time to say goodbye. In this book Christo tells, for the first time, the incredible and moving story of their unlikely friendship.
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