(page 10) - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Page 10 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Description: Page 10 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Transcript: that 'cheap' wine." I said to him, "Okay, then I'll bring it on a tray, but he mustn't say anything, I'll show it to Mr Bizos. Let him choose." When they sat down to eat I brought the two wines on a tray and Mr Bizos immediately took the dry wine.’
Afterwards, Mandela told Swart that he had been embarrassed by the incident. Swart knew that Mandela was joking and that he would want retribution. It duly came a week later. Mandela asked for brown rice, only to be told by Swart that there was no such thing. Mandela insisted. On his next shopping trip, Swart found brown rice. Mandela was victorious. Swart cooked the rice, declared it tasteless and said he wouldn’t cook it again. But Mandela enjoyed telling the story of how he’d educated his chef.
The good humour between the prisoner and the warder had begun at the outset of the Victor Verster months. Swart had recounted how they had met on Robben Island in the mid-1960s. At first he had ‘sort of guarded them, sat there with a firearm’ while they worked in the lime quarry. Later he had driven them by truck from the cells to the quarry.
‘They [Swart’s superiors] ordered me not to drive too slowly,’ Swart recalls. ‘I had to swerve and go fast over the bumps so that they [the prisoners] would not sit easily in the back. Then Mandela knocked on my window and said, what did I think I was doing, they were not bags of mielies. When I told him this story at Victor Verster he remembered and said, “Oh, you were the driver? I hope you are a better cook than you were a driver.” He was joking, he accepted what I said as a joke. He was easy going.’
Swart’s memories of the weekend Mandela was released are phlegmatic. On Friday 9 February 1990 he was told to prepare sandwiches as Mandela would be travelling to Johannesburg. He was unable to say goodbye
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