A newly unearthed interview along with declassified documents point to CIA involvement in the 1962 arrest of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela by the US-friendly apartheid government. At that time, the height of the Cold War, Mandela was seen as part of the Communist opposition.
Time magazine in a new bombshell report asks the question, "Did the CIA Betray Nelson Mandela?" and comes to the conclusion that there was pivotal involvement of America's most powerful spy agency.
The details are coming to light based on the work of Richard Stengel, collaborator on Mandela's autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom". Stengel revisited an unpublished 1993 audio interview he had captured with Mandela, wherein the famous anti-apartheid activist and eventual South African president told him he had learned that an American consul with CIA connections had briefed South African authorities on Mandela's travel habits.
This would help lead to Mandela's arrest and imprisonment for 27 years as head of the outlawed African National Congress (ANC). Additionally now declassified CIA documents had labeled Mandela "probably communist" and confirmed that the agency had been closely tracking him anytime he went out of South Africa.
This was during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. According to Axios, "Taken together, Stengel says, the details add significantly to the evidence that the CIA was tracking Mandela and helped South African authorities arrest him as he was traveling from Durban to Johannesburg in 1962."
And according to further details revealed in the Time report:
A Johannesburg Star story in 1986 cited a "retired senior police officer" saying South African police had been tipped off to Mandela's whereabouts by a U.S. diplomat in Durban who was "the CIA operative for that region."
Four years later, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a "retired [American] intelligence official" identified a "senior CIA operative" as giving South Africa every detail about Mandela's whereabouts.
The details are also consistent with how the US government classified Mandela and his African National Congress throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Despite US officials and media now praising his civil rights legacy as a unifier, the reality is successive US administrations considered him a "terrorist" and actively opposed him and his racial equality movement.
A 2013 NBC report pointed to the historical irony and hypocrisy of US officials as follows: "Until five years ago, however, the U.S. officially considered Mandela a terrorist. During the Cold War, both the State and Defense departments dubbed Mandela’s political party, the African National Congress, a terrorist group, and Mandela’s name remained on the U.S. terrorism watch list till 2008." And more from the report:
But in 1986, Reagan condemned Mandela’s group, the ANC, which was leading the black struggle against the apartheid regime, saying it engaged in "calculated terror ... the mining of roads, the bombings of public places, designed to bring about further repression."
There's long been speculation that the CIA played a key role in Mandela's capture and imprisonment, but more and more details are still being proven, also as three-decade old intelligence files come up for periodic declassifications. He was South Africa's first black head of state starting in 1994, and died in 2013 at the age of 95.