Revelations from a CIA operative indicate that the American spy agency was behind the arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1962. Mandela was perceived to be a risk to the US due to alleged ties with the Soviet Union. A report from the weekend in Britain's "The Sunday Times" newspaper carried excerpts of an interview with Donald Rickard, a former CIA operative in South Africa, taken from a documentary film by John Irvin.
Rickard, who had worked as a US diplomat in South Africa, said Mandela was "totally under the control of the Soviet Union" in the early 1960s.
"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."
Mandela's release marked the end of apartheid
Mandela was a co-founder of the Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation"), an armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC campaigned, sometimes violently, against South Africa's apartheid regime in the early 1960s. Mandela was known for giving authorities seeking his arrest the slip, but in 1962 - apparently acting on a tip from Rickard and the CIA - he was found near Durban and arrested.
He was imprisoned until 1990, and his release marked the end of apartheid. Mandela went on to serve as South Africa's first black president from 1994-1999.
Despite being elected president, Mandela and other members of the ANC officially remained on terror watch lists in the US. Mandela's name was finally removed in 2008.
"Mandela's Gun" scheduled to debut in Cannes this week
Irvin's film, "Mandela's Gun," addresses the months prior to Mandela's arrest and the armed resistance of the ANC under Mandela at the time. The film is scheduled to debut at the Cannes Film Festival this week.
The CIA has not commented on Rickard's statements, and Rickard died just a few weeks after giving the interview in March.
A spokesperson for the ANC told the AFP news agency that the claims were a "serious indictment," and that "[they] always knew there was always a collaboration between some Western countries and the apartheid regime."
Zizi Kodwa also maintained that the CIA has continued to work together with people in South Africa seeking regime change. The government is currently led by the ANC.