Christo Brand | Inspiration | Motivation Speaker

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Christo Brand - Inspiration Education
Christo Brand - Inspiration Education

Christo Brand is a South African former prison guard who was one of several that were responsible for guarding Nelson Mandela. He came to Robben Island, where Mandela was being held, in 1978 when he was 19 years old.

In 1982 he was transferred along with Mandela to Pollsmoor Prison. Christo and Mandela developed a close friendship over the course of many years. He is the co-author of his book, Doing Life with Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend (2014). Christo retired from Robben Island on 31st July 2018 to pursue his storytelling on a full-time basis.

How was it possible for these two men from such seemingly different backgrounds to develop a relationship which was to become so much more – a lasting friendship based on a mutual trust and respect for each other?

Surely, they should have hated each other. One was a white, 18-year-old Afrikaans speaking prison guard representing the oppressive, apartheid regime of the time; the other – a black, 60-year-old Xhosa speaking terrorist serving a life sentence.

Rather than join the army for National Service as was compulsory for every South African white male, Christo decided to join the prison service.  After training for a year in Kroonstad, he applied for a post on Robben Island because he wanted to be close to home.

His application was successful and at the age of 19 he was sent to work on Robben Island in 1978.  That was when Christo first came across Nelson Mandela who at that time was 60 years old.  This was where they formed a relationship which was to become so much more.  A close friendship built on trust and mutual respect for each other.

In 1982, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison.  On 13th March that year, Christo married Estelle.  Soon afterwards, Christo was transferred to Pollsmoor and was responsible for guarding Mandela for the next 6 years.

Christo Brand

Encouraged and supported by Nelson Mandela, in 2014 Christo wrote his book “Doing Life with Mandela – My Prisoner, My Friend”, with co-author Barbara Jones.

In the Foreword, Ahmed Kathrada writes:   “My lasting impression of Christo Brand is that he’s a very good human being.  He’s not a politician; he’s just a very caring man who took chances for other people, which could have brought him trouble.

I sincerely hope that Christo’s book will receive the respect and attention it deserves.  It is a valuable addition to the writings about imprisonment in the apartheid era, and it is written by a fine man.

It is also unique in that it is the most honest account I have read by a warden relating their interaction with Nelson Mandela, and for that alone it deserves credit.  I wish Christo all the success in the world.”

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