The Slatest

Former U.S. Spy Says CIA Played Key Role in Nelson Mandela’s Arrest

Nelson Mandela arrives to address a mass rally a few days after his release from jail on Feb. 25, 1990, in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  

Trevor Samson/AFP/Getty Images

A former CIA spy said he played a key role in getting Nelson Mandela arrested in 1962, which led to a 27-year imprisonment. Donald Rickard, who was working as the U.S. vice consul in Durban, South Africa, at the time, said he was the one who provided the tip about Mandela’s whereabouts on that fateful day, according to the Sunday Times. Rickard gave the explosive declaration mere weeks before his March 30 death to British film director John Irvin. The former spy had no apparent qualms about what he did because Mandela was “the world’s most dangerous communist outside of the Soviet Union.”

Advertisement

Rickard claims he found out that Mandela would be traveling from Durban to Johannesburg and told police authorities so they could set up a roadblock. When Mandela’s car was stopped, agents immediately recognized the most wanted man in the country and took him into custody. “I found out when he was coming down and how he was coming … that’s where I was involved and that’s where Mandela was caught,” Rickard said. The former agent didn’t reveal how he received the information but said he firmly believed Mandela was “completely under the control of the Soviet Union, a toy of the communists.”

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

The interview appears to confirm suspicions that the CIA was tracking Mandela, according to the BBC. The report is likely to increase pressure on the U.S. intelligence agency to release documents that could help clarify its role in Mandela’s arrest. Mandela’s ruling African National Congress party was quick to react to the news, saying it puts in evidence a pattern of Washington involvement in the country’s politics. “That revelation confirms what we have always known, that they are working against [us], even today,” ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said. “It’s not thumb sucked, it’s not a conspiracy [theory]. It is now confirmed that it did not only start now, there is a pattern in history.”

Advertisement

When the 88-year-old Rickard spoke to Irving two weeks before his death he contradicted statements he had made in the past when he vehemently denied any involvement in Mandela’s arrest. In 2012, the Wall Street Journal wrote about the “mystery” of Mandela’s detention and noted reports “about a junior U.S. diplomat at the Durban consulate who allegedly boasted at a party of steering the police to Mr. Mandela.” Rickard denied everything. “That story has been floating around for a while,” he told the paper over the phone. “It’s untrue. There’s no substance to it.”

Advertisement