Guard recalls how Winnie snuck grandchild onto Robben Island for Mandela to see

2018-04-10 19:40
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela. (Gallo Images)

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela. (Gallo Images)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Trudging through blistery winds, heavy rains and cold weather, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela once braved the elements and strict prison rules so that Nelson Mandela could get a glimpse of one of his grandchildren.

During his time on Robben Island, Madikizela-Mandela was one of the former president's primary links with the outside world.

Security was so strict that the two were never allowed to touch and were permitted only a 30-minute visit every three months or so.

Speaking to News24, the one-time prison guard for South Africa's first democratically elected president, Christo Brand, described the incredible bond shared by the struggle power couple. He said the most heartfelt moment he witnessed was when Madikizela-Mandela smuggled one of her grandchildren onto Robben Island. 

"She was a very brave and tough woman. She knew it was against the rules, but she still kept to her convictions," Brand said.

Read: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: revolutionary who kept the spirit of resistance alive

He described how she braved the elements and hid one of her newly born grandchildren in the hopes that her incarcerated husband would have a glimpse of the infant.

Heartbreak

"We had no idea she had the baby. Because she was black, she would have to ride on the top deck of the ferry. So, she would always have a blanket covering her."

Brand said Mama Winnie jumped off the boat and boldly requested that Mandela be allowed to see the baby.

"Now you have to understand, rules were extremely strict for inmates and no babies were allowed on the island at all. Yet she brought the baby and then went on to ask me to ask my superiors if Madiba could see the child."

Brand said he tried to get permission from his superior officer, but this was denied.

"It was a very heartbreaking thing to see."

Brand, however, persevered in his attempts to help Madikizela-Mandela. His opportunity came when Mandela asked him to pass a message.

"After time was up, Madiba asked if I could tell Winnie he wanted to see her for Christmas. My superior at this point walked in and asked what was taking so long. When I told him, he said Winnie could come in quickly, but without the child."

Brand said he then took the child while Mama Winnie went back into the visiting booth.

"I told her I had never held a black child before. I took the baby. It was during this back and forth that I managed to sneak the child to Madiba's side. He kissed the child twice, with tears in his eyes."

They 'changed me'

Brand said that his life changed after observing the couple.

"She was a very strong woman. They were never stopped by anything. She was always fighting to get her husband help."

Brand said he first encountered Madikizela-Mandela on one of her visits to Robben Island in the 1970s.

"I collected her at the ferry. I only found out months later who she was. Some of the warders were afraid to talk to her. She always argued with them, saying she wanted more time. During the visit she would try to give updates on the situation outside. Then we would stop the visit and give her a warning."

He described the relationship between the Mandelas as "very strong".

"Even if someone talked bad about his wife, he defended her. She was there for the family and a role model for him."

Also read: Madikizela-Mandela more than Nelson Mandela's wife – Mokonyane

Brand said that over the years, he developed a strong relationship with the former ANC Women's League president.

"We started respecting each other. I grew up on a farm and my father used to say that black people are just people. Many of the prison guards would ignore her. She went to the media very quickly and this made them afraid."

He said that Madikizela-Mandela's strength was infectious.

"The impact she had on me was incredible. To see that a person can love so much changed me. Through hardships, punishment and pain she always supported her husband. You have to understand no one thought he would ever get out. But she did. She had hope."

Brand said she was always politically strong.

"For what she has done I will take off my hat. She kept Madiba alive in prison. She kept the struggle going. I will say South Africa must think of her as a human being. This woman fought for freedom and the nation and the freedom of the country."

He added: "We must respect the impact she had and uplift each other and not fight each other. We must be just human beings and build up the country. The more we educate our people, the better it will be."

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  winnie madikizela-mandela

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.