Madiba’s bodyguard reminisces

photo : iol


Cape Town – Someone who spent more than a decade beside Madiba describes the world icon as a friend whose home was always warm.

Marcus Griebelaar, Nelson Mandela’s bodyguard in Cape Town, has penned a book, Marcus Griebelaar – Driving Mandela, about his 12 years beside Mandela, starting in 1995.

“He was a wonderful man. We always spoke when we were in the car, he was always talking and it never felt like I drove the president. It felt like I drove around with a friend,” Griebelaar said.

Griebelaar, who is now mayor Patricia de Lille’s chauffeur, was a police officer under the apartheid government, and volunteered to be the personal chauffeur and bodyguard of the country’s first black president.

“I chauffeured Madiba in a BMW 750 IL for the very first years. It was a bulletproof vehicle. I was from the old government and we had to work together with the new protection services police officers. Madiba never made me feel out of place. He preached unity, and we were the living example of that, because we had to work together,” Griebelaar said.

He said his book had no particular storyline, but that it was aimed at telling Mandela’s story.

“I have been working at the City for about four years now, and two years ago I just felt the need to write something, and that is what I did. I had no notes; the only note I had was when Madiba came to visit my five-day-old daughter in Grassy Park on February10, 1996. It was very special to me. I will never forget that moment,” he said.

Griebelaar said that when Mandela visited Qunu in the Eastern Cape, he was at his happiest.

“When I was there I never felt out of place. It felt like my second home. I have travelled all over the world with Madiba, but he loved being there. It was so special to him. That was his only home, and it was clear when he was there that it was special and that he was home,” he said.

Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith, who is a personal friend of Griebelaar, congratulated him on the book’s release.

“Mr Griebelaar is a humble and shy man. I encouraged him to share his experience. He had a special relationship and friendship with Mandela. In the book he gives us a unique perspective on their bond, and insight into a world icon,” said Smith.

The book, written by Granaylia Murphy, is available in stores and at city libraries.

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