AFRICANGLOBE – An unrepentant former CIA agent has told for the first time how he led South African security forces to Nelson Mandela on the day he was arrested back in 1962.
Donald C Rickard, 88, who was officially working as U.S. vice consul in Durban at the time, said he provided the tip-off as part of a Cold War geopolitical power play because Mandela was ‘the world’s most dangerous communist outside of the Soviet Union’.
The undercover officer learned Mandela would be travelling from Duban to Johannesburg on August 5 and claims he gave details of Mandela’s route to his contacts in the police force, meaning they were able to set up a roadblock, The Sunday Times reports.
Mandela’s car was stopped en-route and agents recognized him in the back dressed as a chauffeur and took him into custody.
Mandela, who ran the armed wing of the ANC and was advocating open rebellion and revolution against South Africa’s racist apartheid government, was the most wanted man in the country at the time.
After his arrest he was given a show trial and given a life sentence, serving 27 years before he was released.
Mandela went on to become president of a newly reformed South Africa and one of the most influential human rights figures in history.
However, in an interview with filmmaker John Irvin just weeks before he died, Rickard said he had no regrets about having Mandela jailed.
The agent firmly believed Mandela was in the pocket of Communist Russia and was planning to incite the Indian population in the Natal region, where he was based, to rise up.
That, Rickard says, would have paved the way for a Soviet invasion, setting up a conflict between Russia and America that could have seen the region descend into chaos.
He 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, who retired from the CIA in 1978 and spent the rest of his life living in Colorado, passed away just weeks after giving his tell-all account, on March 30.
He was born in Rangoon, Burma, in 1928 before being forced to flee with his parents and three brothers in 1942, during the Second World War.
The family walked nearly 200 miles from their old home to India, according to The Pagosa Springs Sun, where they settled in Mussoorie for a number of years before moving to San Francisco.
After graduating from Bucknell University with a degree in political science, Rickard went on to a job in the U.S. State Department.
According to his obituary, Rickard was never officially associated with the CIA, but instead worked as a diplomat in countries including Pakistan, South Africa and South Korea.
While rumors have long circulated about the CIA’s involvement in Mandela’s arrest, nothing has been confirmed until now.
A retired South African intelligence official, Gerard Ludi, told Newsweek in 1990 that the CIA had a mole inside the Durban ANC branch that was feeding information to agents.
The CIA has refused to comment on the rumors, and has also refused to release files it holds relating to Mandela or its activities around the time of his arrest.
In 2014 Ryan Shapiro, a PhD student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, launched a lawsuit attempting to get access to that paperwork, but was denied.
While Mandela has been linked to the Communist party many times over the years, he always denied belonging to the party.
Following his death in 2013, the South African Communist party said he was a member of their central committee at the time of his arrest, though this was disputed by his family.
By: Chris Pleasance
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