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Speaker From

South Africa


Cape Town

State | County | Province

Western Cape

Speaker Bio

Christo Brand is a South African former prison guard who was one of several that were responsible for guarding Nelson Mandela. He came to Robben Island, where Mandela was being held, in 1978 when he was 19 years old.


In 1982 he was transferred along with Mandela to Pollsmoor Prison. Christo and Mandela developed a close friendship over the course of many years. He is the co-author of his book, Doing Life with Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend (2014). Christo retired from Robben Island on 31st July 2018 to pursue his storytelling on a full-time basis.

How was it possible for these two men from such seemingly different backgrounds to develop a relationship which was to become so much more – a lasting friendship based on a mutual trust and respect for each other?


Surely, they should have hated each other. One was a white, 18-year-old Afrikaans speaking prison guard representing the oppressive, apartheid regime of the time; the other – a black, 60-year-old Xhosa speaking terrorist serving a life sentence.


Rather than join the army for National Service as was compulsory for every South African white male, Christo decided to join the prison service.  After training for a year in Kroonstad, he applied for a post on Robben Island because he wanted to be close to home.


His application was successful and at the age of 19 he was sent to work on Robben Island in 1978.  That was when Christo first came across Nelson Mandela who at that time was 60 years old.  This was where they formed a relationship which was to become so much more.  A close friendship built on trust and mutual respect for each other.


In 1982, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison.  On 13th March that year, Christo married Estelle.  Soon afterwards, Christo was transferred to Pollsmoor and was responsible for guarding Mandela for the next 6 years.

Christo Brand

Later Mandela was moved to Victor Verster Prison and the talks about his release escalated.


On his release, Mandela organised a job for Christo as an administrative and logistics manager in the Constitutional Assembly.  Once the Constitution was adopted, Ahmed Kathrada organised for Christo to start work again on Robben Island – this time as supervisor in the island shop.


The wheel had turned full circle and Christo was back where he started his work career.  But this time on an island freed of prisoners – a place of healing and reconciliation.


A place of endless fascination to international tourists, historians, political activists and anyone with an interest in South Africa’s turbulent past.  On 31st July 2018 after 20 years at Robben Island, Christo retired to pursue his storytelling on a full-time basis.

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  • Emanuel School
    10/14/2021 at 9:48 am

    ‘I would not call this a virtual event as it almost felt like I was living the lives of Mr Brand and Mr Lionel. It was a really special experience and it exposed me to more intricate knowledge of African history.’
    ‘Mr. Davis’ words about creating change by living your life in love is such a simple act that can change everything. Paired with Mr. Brand’s (and President Mandela’s of course) emphasis on education the transformation of humanity is possible.’
    ‘This was one of the most transformative programs I’ve ever attended. I’m not a particularly emotional person, but I found myself moved to tears at a couple of points.’

    Edu-Africa – Central Piedmont & Davidson-Davie Community Colleges, Zoom

    Keynote Talks - Virtual

  • Warwick Academy
    09/21/2021 at 9:49 am

    “Just to say thanks for organizing this presentation. While I knew some of this story was great to have Christo tell his story in person. I’m sure all watching took a lot from this presentation and I hope carry this powerful message of mutual respect with them moving forward.”
    “Thanks very much for giving us an opportunity to learn far more about such a great man and the situations around his life. I found today very informative, powerful and certainly emotive.”

    Warwick Academy, Bermuda – Teams session,

    Keynote Talks - Virtual

  • SAOA Past Presidents
    08/29/2021 at 9:53 am

    Christo was the guest speaker at this gala dinner. He was amazing; he blew the audience away with his insights into his journey with Nelson Mandela. The conference theme was Change – Better.

    SAOA Past Presidents Dinner – Mount Nelson Hotel

    Keynote Talk - Live

  • Vanessa Barros
    07/09/2021 at 9:53 am

    A massive thank you to you, Andrew, and Christo. The group absolutely loved the session!!!!

    Vanessa Barros, Leadership and Cultural Intelligence – Zoom

    Keynote Talks - Virtual

  • Tom Edwards
    06/23/2021 at 9:55 am

    Our boys will really have benefited from speaking to Christo and to you, and it is an experience of great meaning that I hope they will not forget. I hope it will be possible to repeat it next year!

    Tom Edwards – Summerfields, Zoom

    Keynote Talks - Virtual

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