In an important sense, Gregory’s book is not his own work, as it was ghost written by a British journalist, Bob Graham. In 1994, Graham was sent to South Africa
on assignment for Today, a tabloid newspaper which has since ceased publication. During the course of his time in the country, Graham met and interviewed James Gregory, as did many other journalists, including some French journalists, who may have been instrumental in the French publishing house Editions Robert Laffont acquiring rights to Gregory’s story. Graham found the ex-warder’s reminiscences compelling and within months he had expanded them into a book.
Establishing the precise nature of the relationships these three warders had with Mandela is challenging. Their claims address the central challenge of historiography: the authority of the storyteller. Mandela has commented cursorily on his relationships with them in his own autobiography, in his book Nelson Mandela
: Conversations with Myself, and in Anthony Sampson’s Mandela – The Authorised Biography, but these comments are, understandably, in passing. Consequently, although Gregory’s narrative stands in conflict with those of Brand and Swart, and although former prisoner Ahmed Kathrada has condemned Gregory’s account, it is Gregory’s word which dominates the internet. A simple Google search foregrounds his relationship with Mandela as a matter of record, and yet it is seriously flawed.
The first of the warders to come into contact with Mandela was Jack Swart, in 1966.
Swart was born in 1947 in the west coast town of Darling, where his father ran two butcheries. His early childhood years were spent here, and here the