Afrikaner Christo Brand – one of the men who guarded Nelson Mandela for 12 years in a South African prison and who became the future South African president’s confidant and accomplice – will speak at Bridgewater College on Sunday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m., in Cole Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Brand’s appearance at Bridgewater is part of the Endowed Lecture Series with the support of the South Africa Fund.
Raised the son of a farm foreman in a multi-ethnic farming community in South Africa, Brand knew little of apartheid – the system of racial segregation practiced elsewhere in the country. When he was conscripted into the military at age 18, Brand chose to work as a prison guard rather than engage in the brutality inherent in the work of soldiers and policemen. Assigned to the maximum security prison on Robben Island, Brand was placed in charge of the country’s most famous inmate, Nelson Mandela, a revolutionary with the African National Congress.
For the next 12 years, Brand watched Mandela scrub floors, empty his toilet bucket and grieve over the deaths of family and friends. Mandela would advise the younger man about his need to study and congratulate him on his marriage and the birth of his two sons. Won over by Mandela’s charm and concern for the well-being of others, Brand became Mandela’s confidant and, at times, accomplice, as he helped him bend the rules to get his message out to fellow activists.
The unlikely bond between these two men would endure until Mandela’s death in 2013.
Today, Brand still works on Robben Island where he runs the bookshop. Robben Island is a World Heritage site dedicated to Mandela’s lifelong fight to liberate his people. He is the author of Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend.