London- An article in the “Sunday Times” reported that a tip from a CIA spy to authorities led to Nelson Mandela’s 1962 arrest, beginning the leader’s 27 years behind bars.
The newspaper cited comments reportedly made by Donald Rickard, a former U.S. vice-consul in Durban and CIA operative, to British film director John Irvin.
Notably, Irvin’s new film “Mandela’s Gun,” about the months before the Mandela’s arrest, is due to be screened at the Cannes film festival this week.
Mandela was eventually freed from prison in 1990 and went on to become South Africa’s president between 1994 and 1999 before dying in 2013 aged 95.
James Sanders, who said he was asked by Irvin to investigate the issue, said in an article he published that the director travelled to the U.S. earlier this year and interviewed Rickard.
Rickard explained how Mandela was arrested as he travelled between Durban and Johannesburg but did not explain how he had learnt where he was going to be.
“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 was quoted as saying.
He added that Mandela was “completely under the control of the Soviet Union.”
“He could have incited a war in South Africa, the United States would have to get involved, unwillingly, and things could have gone to hell,” Rickard added.
“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.”
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.
For his part, Zizi Kodwa, spokesman for the African National Congress, said the revelation was “a serious indictment” but nothing new.
“We always knew there was always collaboration between some Western countries and the apartheid regime,” he told AFP.
He echoed claims by the ANC’s secretary-general that the CIA was still meddling in South African affairs.
“We have recently observed that there are efforts to undermine the democratically elected ANC government,” he said. “It is still happening now; the CIA is still collaborating with those who want regime change.”