A former CIA spy said it was his tip that led to Nelson Mandela’s arrest back in 1962 — and his subsequent 27 years in prison.
Donald Rickard made the bombshell admission in an interview with filmmaker John Irvin just weeks before the 88-year-old diplomat died in March, the Sunday Times of London reported.
Rickard reportedly told Irvin, whose biopic “Mandela’s Gun” is slated to screen later this week at the Cannes film festival, that he tipped off the South African police that Mandela would be traveling on a road from Durban to Johannesburg.
“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 said.
Mandela was wanted for speaking out and leading a campaign of sabotage against South Africa’s segregationist apartheid government.
Rickard, who was a U.S. vice consul stationed in Durban at the time, said he thought tipping off the police was in the best interest of the U.S. because Mandela “was the world’s most dangerous communist outside of the Soviet Union” and was “completely under the control of” the U.S.S.R.
“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, according the Times.
“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.”
In his autobiography, Mandela said he was surprised he hadn’t been arrested sooner.
Zizi Kodwa, a spokesman for Mandela’s ANC party, told the BBC the “revelation confirms what we have always known, that they are working against [US], even today.”
Rickard denied having any role in the arrest in a 2012 interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“That story has been floating around for a while,” he said then. “It’s untrue. There’s no substance to it.”
Mandela was released from prison in 1990, and worked tirelessly to unite the country, becoming its first black president. He died in 2013 at age 95.
President Obama and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter all attended his memorial service in Johannesburg.