Barry Jackman is a key member of the Alzheimer Café Isle of Wight team, and as well as presenting and educating around the Island, he has done a lot of work at our two prisons. Here, he talks about meeting former bodyguard to Nelson Mandella, Chris Lubbe, who recently visited the Island to talk to the inmates.
Read on for Barry's experience.
I’ve been involved with our two prisons for several years, presenting dementia awareness courses to both inmates and staff, and coinciding with Black lives matter month, Chris Lubbe, former body guard to Nelson Mandella, was invited as an inspirational keynote speaker.
I was able to chat with Chris at some length and found he was born in a township, in a very difficult period in South Africa’s history, where he experienced the racially biased system of apartheid. From a very young age, he witnessed
the brutality and degradation of being a black South African. His mother was beaten into a three-month coma by a policeman simply for sitting on a “whites only” bench whilst feeling unwell. He became an activist, a decision that put him in direct collision with the authorities which resulted in several spells of incarceration, torture and near-death experiences.
After Nelson Mandella’s release from a 27-year stint in jail, in 1990, Chris was offered the job of being his bodyguard, mainly because he was 6ft 4ins. tall and looked the part. He was flown to Hereford where he was taught the basics of the craft by the SAS and remained with Nelson Mandella until he finally retired, accompanying him to all events and negotiations that resulted in the new constitution. He also became firm friends with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Chris spoke for well over an hour, and captivated his audience, receiving a standing ovation. It was easy to work out the parallels; many of those present face lengthy sentences and whilst not having to face the brutality of life in a South African prison, forty years ago, the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence within a confined institution, and the prospect of losing hope and courage, is very real.
I spoke to several inmates, some of whom I’d met before and all recognised the value in what Chris said. Primarily, the value of truth, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Goodness only knows this is in short supply in today’s world.
I drove home feeling I had met one of those rare people whose very presence inspires.