A Different Perspective


From the beginning of this trip and up until today, I feel as though I have only understood one side of the story to Apartheid among the many–the story of the oppressed. For, it was not until we had the honor of meeting Christo Brand that my perspective began to understand a different side. As Nelson Mandela’s prison guard for a majority of his imprisonment, Christo told us his story. When he was 18, he was placed on Robben Island as a guard because it was the most peaceful job he thought he could have, for it was required for him to join the military force in some regard and he did not want to fight in battle. While Christo believed he chose the most manageable position, having grown up on a farm with many friends of color and no justification of apartheid, he explains that though political prisoners were not to receive any physical violence, it was rather the emotional violence that manifested among them. It bothered him that they would have to conduct in arduous menial labor for many hours (even though after meeting Ahmed Kathrada, he mentioned that the labor was the only escape from the cell and that being outside doing labor was much better than remaining contained).

Christo, however, mentioned that his most vivid memory of his experience there was the fact that he couldn’t understand how people could be so inhumane to each other. Obviously a man of peace, Christo became lifelong friends with Mandela, helping him out in any way he could without sacrificing his position as a guard. According to Ahmed Kathrada, their group of valiant political activists did not become close with Christo until after they were all relocated to Pollsmoor Prison, but when they did, they all became close friends and still remain so to this day.