(page 17) - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Page 17 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Description: Page 17 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Transcript: Several men spat loudly on the floor. From the back I could hear the words ‘kaffir boetie’ and ‘nigger lover.’ There was no bar [counter] as such, just a small hatch where men queued to get their drinks before taking it to another part of the room. To one side of the line-up stood a major, van der Westhuizen. He had been drinking and he stood with a smirk on his face. Turning to his group of friends behind him he jerked his head in my direction and said, ‘Here he is, the arse-licking Mandela man. Who wants to ask him any questions about what the nigger is going to do with our country? Eh, come on, let’s find out.’
Gregory ignored the jibe and ordered his beer. But the major continued, ‘Nice tracksuit, Gregory. I suppose your old father down there gave it to you’ – referring to Mandela. This enraged Gregory and he grabbed the major around the throat while another officer tried to restrain him. I hissed at van der Westhuizen. ‘Listen, and listen carefully. My father has been dead for a long time now. If you have got anything to say to me or anyone about my job here we will talk about it, not in front of the commanding officer, but with the people in Pretoria. I’m sure they would like to hear your opinions. If you don’t want to do that keep your cowardly mouth shut.’ (p322) Gregory then ‘stormed out’ and a short while later the prison’s commanding officer came to apologise to him about the ‘misunderstanding’.
Jack Swart doesn’t believe this incident occurred. ‘I wasn’t in the club every day or weekend but I would have heard about something like that. Gregory used to like drinking, Carling Black Labels, he was there every night talking to us, and no one ever did that. No one ever said things like that.’
At the time, Gregory wrote, telephonic death threats had been made against Mandela. And he, too, had been targeted and told he would be shot down ‘like a dog’. (p317) Consequently Gregory armed himself and was ‘always
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