In over 27 years of incarceration, Nelson Mandela was exposed to many prison officials. The most regular exposure was to warders. Three of the warders claimed to have developed particularly close relationships with Mandela: James Gregory, Christo Brand, and Jack Swart. All three were close to Mandela in the sense that at various times they were given special duties in relation to him, they read his correspondence, sat in on his family visits, sometimes spoke to him during the day. All three continued to have contact with him after his release from prison. Who are these three men? How close to Mandela were they? What are their stories?
During the prison years Gregory and Brand called Mandela either Nelson or Mandela. He always referred to them as Mr Gregory and Mr Brand. Jack Swart, who was with Mandela for his final thirteen months at Victor Verster Prison, called him Mandela (as opposed to Nelson, out of deference to his age) until he was instructed by his commanding officers to use the honorific. As with Brand and Gregory, Mandela always referred to Swart as Mr Swart. Swart had no problem switching to the formal address. He suspected that Mandela had originated the request and, because he was simply doing a job, he obeyed.
Today, when referring to Mandela, both Brand and Swart call him by his surname without the honorific, and sometimes by his first name. Neither uses Madiba, the clan name by which Mandela prefers to be addressed. There is no telling what James Gregory would have called Mandela today because Gregory died of cancer in 2003. In his 1995 autobiography, Goodbye Bafana, Gregory calls him Nelson. As in: ‘Good morning, Nelson, sleep well?’ (p355) Or ‘Well, Nelson, this is it, man. This is what you have waited for’ (p355) – which was part of a reported conversation between the