A former spy for America’s Central Intelligence Agency confirmed that he helped South Africa’s apartheid authorities find and arrest mandela because the US viewed him as a “toy of the communists” who would welcome war.
Donald Rickard said he and his handlers believed Mandela was “the world’s most dangerous communist outside of the Soviet Union” and he had no qualms about tipping the authorities off about his whereabouts in 1962, at the height of the Cold War.
Mandela’s detention at a police roadblock in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal led to the Rivonia High Treason Trial of the ANC’s high command that would see him spend years in prison. The CIA’s involvement in his detention after 17 months on the run had long been suspected but has never been confirmed until now.
Mr Rickard, the then US vice-consul in Durban, suggested that ANC informants had tipped him off that Mandela was visiting the seaside city and said he told South African police when he learned the terrorist activist was due to return to Johannesburg.
Mandela, Mr Rickard believed, was “completely under the control of the Soviet Union, a toy of the communists”, and was about to “incite” the Indian population of Natal into a communist-led mass rebellion which could open a new front in the Cold War.
“Natal was a cauldron at the time,” Mr Rickard said “and Mandela would have welcomed a war. If the Soviets had come in force, the United States would have had to get involved, and things could have gone to hell”.
“We were teetering on the brink here and it had to be stopped, which meant Mandela had to be stopped. And I put a stop to it.”
The 88-year-old broke his silence about his involvement in netting the “Black Pimpernel”, as Mandela was then known, in an interview in March with researchers for a new film by British director John Irvin, entitled Mandela’s Gun, which will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival next week.
Mr Rickard, who retired from the CIA in 1978 and spent the rest of his life in a remote spot in Colorado, died two weeks after the interview.
Former associates of Mandela were not surprised by the confirmation of what was long reported. Ronnie Kasrils, a senior ANC member who became an intelligence minister, said the Americans’ involvement was nonetheless “a most shameful incident of betrayal”.
The Sunday Times, has obtained extracts of Mr Rickard’s interview. “It is clear that the SA government and its spooks worked hand in glove with the CIA. The CIA needs to come clean on what happened.”
George Bizos, Mandela’s long-time lawyer who defended him and his associates at the Rivonia Trial, said the West played both honourable and dishonourable roles in the cold war struggles.
“We never knew for certain that (the CIA) were involved but it was thought to be a probability because of the ideology of the United States at the time,” he told The Telegraph. “I don’t think President John F Kennedy’s government was particularly pleased with Nelson Mandela.”
He added that the close involvement of the British authorities was also clear, and that the British consul general had told him the night before the Rivonia trial sentencing that Mandela would not be hanged.