From Prison Guard to Friend – The Unlikely Story of Nelson Mandela and Christo Brand

In 1979, Christo Brand, the son of a farm foreman born in Johannesburg, South Africa, was assigned to Robben Island to guard Nelson Mandela and his fellow revolutionaries. Most would predict that these two would become bitter enemies, but instead, they formed an extraordinary and lasting friendship. Brand will present a TCU Super Green Chair lecture at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28, in the Brown-Lupton University Union, 2901 Stadium Dr., on the TCU campus. The lecture is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow.

photo of Nelson Mandela and Christo Brand

South African President Nelson Mandela with Christo Brand

Brand was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, along with Mandela and other anti-apartheid revolutionaries, where their relationship grew. As a way to integrate Mandela back into society, a contingent of guards, including Brand, took him on medical visits and scenic drives.

Mandela took an active interest in Brand’s emerging family and career, and continued to act as a mentor and friend long after his release from prison in 1991. Brand was recruited to work in the administration of the Constitutional Assembly upon the recommendation of President Mandela. When the latter was dissolved, he found employment again on Robben Island, running the shop where he remains to this day. In 2014, he published Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend, a personal account of the close friendship between a prison warden and a prisoner serving a life sentence.