Story by: Christo Brand

From Nelson Mandela’s prison guard to close friend, Christo Brand talks to Luxury Gold about his life with this important figure. 

“We must share the fruits of our labour in this century – we are only here for a short time”, are the words spoken by Nelson Mandela, my teacher, my friend, my prisoner.

Aged 18, I was positioned as Mandela’s prison guard on Robben Island. While our relationship should have placed us as friend and foe, we soon formed an unlikely bond.

It started when I helped Mandela meet his new grandson. His wife Winnie brought the child to a visitation and I broke the prison rules by allowing Mandela to hold him.

When I was in a motorcycle accident, Mandela helped to defend me from prison, advising me on the case – together we won.

His life mantra was to help others. I believe this is why he lived to a great age, helping people made him strive to live longer.

Mandela’s politics transformed South Africa, as he dismantled the legacy of apartheid and focused on reconciling the nation, through educating the people. He believed this was the most important thing in the world.

“A person should never simply enrich himself. If you have funds, try to help people, educate people,” he told me. Following his words, I decided to work in his office when he became President.

Our relationship changed me as a person. I learnt to live for others and to act as a humble servant to the nation. Having retired from my professional career, I now work as a curator at Robben Island Museum, where I continue to tell the legacy of my unlikely friend and greatest teacher.

Related journey: Meet Christo Brand on Spectacular South Africa.