(page 18) - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Page 18 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Description: Page 18 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Transcript: conscious of the possibility of being killed’ off the prison grounds. (p323) Mandela also allegedly warned him. Nelson knew about the firearms and the death threats. He was always very concerned for me. ‘Mr Gregory, you have got to be careful out there. These people are serious, they play real games and they kill people.’ (p323) Gregory took comfort in having a plain-clothes policeman covering him when he was out and about. Although he doesn‘t say so, the risk must have been growing ever more alarming for him because Mandela would have to leave the prison for medical and dental consultations and he was being taken on sight-seeing drives. I would not say I was living in fear, Gregory wrote, I was just fully prepared for the worst. Fully prepared meant that every evening as I went to bed I placed the handgun on the cupboard beside the bed, loaded and ready to fire. On the floor next to the bed was a fully-loaded shotgun. (p324)
Swart was nonchalant about these threats. Yes, he admitted, they were armed whenever they left the prison grounds with Mandela, and, yes, this was for his protection as much as their own. There were times they walked down crowded pavements with Marais leading, Gregory close to Mandela, while he brought up the rear, but he never felt threatened or anxious. Nobody paid them the slightest heed. There were never any incidents. Mandela hadn’t been seen in public for twenty-six years, no one was likely to recognise him. And especially not in Cape Town where he’d hardly been known during his politically active years anyhow. As far as Swart was concerned the precautions were no big deal.
‘Whenever we went out,’ says Swart, ‘it was as a convoy: security police in unmarked cars in front and at the back, the National Intelligence Service in an unmarked car, usually the press was there too. We had more trouble getting away from the press than from anyone dangerous. Sometimes we wouldn’t even go out because there were too many press waiting at the gate.
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