A retired U.S. spy has admitted that the CIA tracked Nelson Mandela and provided the tip off that led to his 1962 arrest. Donald Rickard, 88, made the admission during an interview in March shortly before passing away. The interview was just published in The Times this past Sunday.
Mandela subsequently spent 27 years in prison before being freed. He later became the first post-apartheid leader of South Africa.
The United States was closely allied with the apartheid regime at the time. The U.S. continued supporting the regime right up until the end of the Cold War. The U.S. government considered South Africa a cold war ally, while it considered Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) to be communists allied with the Soviet Union.
Nelson Mandela and the ANC did receive aid from the Soviet Union, Cuba, and other U.S. Cold War foes. But this was out of a need for outside support, not because of any communist ideological ties. Despite U.S. paranoia, this had nothing to do with the Cold War.
There have long been rumors that the CIA played a role in Mandela’s arrest, but this is the first time anybody has publicly admitted it. The CIA has not commented. Documents about CIA activities in South Africa during the Cold War remain classified. But the CIA is under increasing pressure to come clean, and these latest revelations have given truth seekers new momentum.
One activist has just filed a lawsuit against the CIA, NSA, FBI and numerous other intelligence agencies. The lawsuit is demanding that all these agencies release all documents related to activities targeting Nelson Mandela and other opponents of apartheid.
Rickard, for his part, said during the interview he had no regrets. He believed Mandela was going to cause a war and said:
“We were teetering on the brink and it had to be stopped…and I put a stop to it.”
The full interview with Rickard was recorded in a film documentary about Nelson Mandela’s life as a revolutionary. The film, “Mandela’s Gun”, is being screened in Cannes this month.
Rickard has previously denied claims he provided information that led to Mandela’s arrest. As recently as 2012, he called such claims “untrue” and devoid of “substance.” But being on his death bed seems to have prompted him to change his mind and come clean.
Nelson Mandela was leading a violent rebellion at the time he was arrested. But it was a rebellion to free blacks from a terrible racist and oppressive regime. The U.S. stood on the wrong side of history and supported apartheid to suppress the black rebellion. It did so at the same time Black civil rights marchers were fighting for their own freedom at home.
There are still a lot of details that remain murky since so much information is still classified. It is unclear from how high up within the U.S. government the decision to track and capture Nelson Mandela came. It is also unclear how Mandela was viewed by the Kennedy administration, which was in office at the time.
But hopefully this new revelation will lead to more information so that people can soon know the truth.
Featured image courtesy of London School of Economics library under Creative Commons license 2.0