(page 7) - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Page 7 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Description: Page 7 of Nelson Mandela's Warders
Transcript: After five years Swart applied for a transfer. He was now in charge of transport but life on the island had become so monotonous that he was desperate for a change. As his five-year stint had well outstripped the obligatory two years that warders had to remain on the Island, he was told he could choose his next posting. He gave Malmesbury, Paarl and Worcester as his choices. The department told him there were no vacancies. He could choose anywhere else in the Western Cape. Anywhere, he replied, except Pollsmoor. He was immediately posted to Pollsmoor.
After two weeks of guard duty at Pollsmoor, Swart volunteered for kitchen work. He would spend the next two decades in the kitchens of various prisons in the Western Cape, be trained as a chef, a butcher, a barman and a shopkeeper, and ended up as head of the mess, shop and bar at Victor Verster Prison in 1989. In fact he was in charge of overseeing all the prison kitchens in the district when Nelson Mandela was transferred to Victor Verster in November 1989.
‘They [his superiors] came to me and told me I was going to be in charge of Mandela’s house,’ he recalls. ‘They chose me because I was head of the mess and they could trust me. I was told I couldn’t turn it down. At first I was not happy, I had this major appointment, and now it seemed as if I was being put on suspension. They told me that afterwards I would be looked after. But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t know for how long I’d have to do this job, but we all thought it would be for some time.’
Swart’s duties included cooking for Mandela, buying the groceries and cleaning the house. Initially a prisoner was assigned to clean but ‘then Nelson bought him tobacco and we couldn’t have that, so that was the end of the cleaner’. Swart now took over the vacuum cleaning and the dusting. His
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