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CIA Operative Says He’s Responsible for Jailing of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
<p> Moneta Sleet Jr. /Ebony Collection</p>

A former CIA operative has confessed to having a hand in the arrest of Nelson Mandela.

Donald Rickard, who was a U.S. vice-consul to South Africa working in Durban revealed his key role in the 1962 arrest that led to the future South African president’s imprisonment for 27 years during an interview with British film director John Irvin just weeks before his death in March at 88.

A report in Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper depicts claims Rickard made about his part in sending Mandela to jail. In the article, he was unrepentant, calling him “the world’s most dangerous communist outside of the Soviet Union.”

Rickard was never formally associated with the CIA, but worked as a U.S. diplomat before retiring in the 1970s.

At the time, Mandela was marked as a criminal in apartheid South Africa, and Rickard claims he learned of the African National Congress leader’s travel plans from Durban to Johannesburg and alerted police in order for them to set up a roadblock.

“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, without revealing how he was tipped off, but insisting that Mandela was “completely under the control of the Soviet Union, a toy of the communists.”

Not much has been known about the events leading up to Mandela’s arrest. At the time of his detainment, he was the leader of the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), and was branded a terrorist and a threat to the West. Mandela was jailed for resisting White minority rule in 1962 and released in 1990. He became president of South Africa in 1994 and served until 1999, but stayed on a U.S. terror watch list until 2008.

The ANC was placed on a list of terrorist organizations by President Reagan in the 1980s, meaning Mandela could only visit the United States with special permission from the U.S. State Department.

The disclosure led to a demand for the CIA to be more transparent about any role it played in Mandela’s arrest.

“That revelation confirms what we have always known, that they are working against [us], even today,” ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told the BBC. “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.”

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