After decades of silence, a new exclusive in the UK’s Sunday Times reveals that a former CIA operative had a major role in the arrest of Nelson Mandela that led to his imprisonment for 27 years.
According to the Times, Donald Rickard was a former U.S. vice-consul in Durban and CIA operative. At the time of the 1962 arrest he believed that Mandela was “the world’s most dangerous communist outside the Soviet Union.”
The United States government believed that Mandela was “completely under the control of the Soviet Union.” Mandela was arrested in 1962 because of his popularity as a political activist and Black liberator in South Africa.
“He could have incited a war in South Africa, the United States would have to get involved, grudgingly, and things could have gone to hell,” Rickard said. “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 died in March. The AFP reports that he was employed by the CIA until 1978.
Rickard’s testimony has been featured in the upcoming biopic, Mandela’s Gun, directed by John Irvin. He told filmmakers about his connection to the arrest before the report surfaced.
The film will focus on the few months leading up to Mandela’s arrest, and the new film will be screened at the Cannes film festival later this week.