It was with some hesitation I started reading this book. A book using the name of Nelson Mandela could be a kind of hagiography. A book describing a friendship with the very same Nelson Mandela could be an attempt to acquire an halo, due to the link with Mandela.
The feeling did not quite leave me when I read page after page, but somewhere during my travel from beginning till end my attitude changed because I noticed that a relationship of many years (not just with Mandela) evolved, a relationship that was reciprocal.
Christo Brand worked as a warder at Robben Island where Mandela was one of ‘his’ prisoners, not just Mandela but many other wellknown prisoners who were convicted at the Rivonia process.
Brand tells his life story, from his background at a farm, where he did not concern himself with the political situation. When faced with military conscription he decides to opt for the prison services and after finishing his harsh training is transferred to Robben Island. He describes the life of a warder at the secluded spot. To him the island felt as a kind of prison as well.
From Robben Island he is transferred to Pollsmoor prison and at the same time the Rivonians are transferred as well. He describes the way Mandela is the leader of the group and how he gets a special position, the meetings with politicians of the apartheid regime, the move to the Victor Verster Prison and finally the move to freedom. And Brand was there and both kept in touch.
At the end of the book Brand works at the Heritage Site of Robben Island. He is still in contact with some of his former prisoners.
My opinion on the book changed during the process of reading. It is a token of humanity across races and bars and prison compounds.
Christo Brand (with Barbara Jones) – MANDELA. My prisoner, my friend – 2014