Nelson Mandela’s Former Prison Guard to Speak at UNCW Nov. 13

Monday, November 09, 2015

Christo Brand, Nelson Mandela’s former prison guard and friend, will share memories about the former South African president at the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Nov. 13. Brand, the author of Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend, will speak at 2 p.m. at the Cameron School of Business, room 105 and at 6 p.m. in Morton Hall, room 100. Both talks are free and open to the public.

Brand was Mandela’s prison guard on South Africa’s infamous Robben Island, and later at Pollsmoor and Victor Verster Prisons for 12 years. Mandela and other members of the anti-apartheid African National Congress had faced a death sentence for their activities to end apartheid rule in South Africa. As a result of Mandela’s speech denouncing apartheid at their trial, he and the others received life imprisonment.

Brand, an Afrikaner, and Mandela developed a friendship that endured beyond Mandela’s release and subsequent election as South Africa’s first African president. Brand did favors for Mandela, including smuggling him bread and bringing him messages. He also broke the rules to allow Mandela to hold his infant grandson.

"Mr. Brand’s visit presents a unique opportunity to learn about Nelson Mandela’s life in prison following his arrest for activities to defeat apartheid rule in South Africa and his contributions to the continuing struggle for global human rights," said Elizabeth Hines, associate professor of geography. "It is a rare thing to hear from a man who spent decades with, and who reveres, one of the greatest men of the 20th century. The professional relationship between Mr. Brand became a friendship that endured beyond prison, the presidency and Mandela’s global activism after his domestic political career. Their common kind humanity is a magnificent story and a lesson for us all."

In an interview with PBS’s Frontline for the piece “The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela: An Intimate Portrait of one of the 20th Century’s Greatest Leaders,” Brand described how their relationship evolved.

“While he was in prison on Robben Island, I treated him like I treated all the other prisoners ... But when you were alone, you would maybe listen more to him, and respect him more for his views and what he discussed,” Brand stated. “But after ’85, ... I was thinking that he will be the leader of the people outside - not, say, my leader. But I listened to him. I would never say I agreed with him, I would never say not agreed with him. But after he came to Victor Verster [Prison] and then was released, I respected him as a leader for South Africa people. And later he became my leader. And I was very proud that one of my prisoners, which I looked after, became my leader.”

Mandela was released in 1990 after 27 years in prison. Four years later, he became the first black president of South Africa, leading the post-apartheid nation for five years. He died at his home in Johannesburg on Dec. 5, 2013. Brand still works on Robben Island, now a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

The presentation is sponsored by UNCW’s Office of International Programs, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Honors College, Department of Geography & Geology, Department of International Studies and LINC, Inc.