CIA tip led to Mandela’s fateful 1962 arrest, claims US ex-diplomat

MandelaThe arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1962, which led to his 28-year incarceration, came after a tip from the United States Central Intelligence Agency, according to an American diplomat who was in South Africa at the time. At the time of his arrest, Mandela was the head of uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), an organization he founded in 1961 to operate as the armed wing of the anti-apartheid African National Congress (ANC). But the white minority government of South Africa accused Mandela of being a terrorist and an agent of the Soviet Union. The US-Soviet rivalry of that era meant that the ANC and its leader had few supporters in America during the early stages of the Cold War.

Mandela was arrested on August 5, 1962 in the KwaZulu-Natal town of Howick by members of the South African Police. He was pretending to be the chauffeur of Cecil Williams, a white member of the ANC who was riding in the back seat of the car that Mandela was driving that night. The details of what led to Mandela’s arrest have always been mysterious, and the ANC has long suspected that the MK leader was betrayed by informants placed within the organization by the apartheid government. But an article in the London-based Sunday Times has said that it was the CIA that tipped off the South Africans about Mandela’s whereabouts that night. The claim is based on an interview with Donald Rickard, an American diplomat —now dead— who was serving as Washington’s vice-consul in Durban at the time of Mandela’s arrest. Some believe that Rickard was actually a CIA officer posing as a diplomat until his retirement from the service in 1978, and he himself never denied it.

Two weeks before he died, Rickard gave an interview to British filmmaker John Irvin, who was filming for his latest documentary, entitled Mandela’s Gun, about Mandela’s role in the MK. According to The Times, the former US diplomat told Irvin that in the early 1960s Mandela was “the most dangerous communist anywhere outside the USSR”. This is despite Mandela’s repeated denials that he had ever been a member or sympathizer of the South African Communist Party, which at the time was actively supporting the ANC. Rickard allegedly told Irvin: “I found out when [Mandela] was coming down and how he was coming […]. That’s where I was involved and that’s’ where Mandela was caught”. In his interview, Rickard insisted that Mandela was “completely under the control of the Soviet Union [and effectively] a toy for the communists”. Moreover, he said the CIA believed that he was planning to organize the large Indian population of Natal Province and incite them into an uprising led by communists, which, according to Rickard, could have prompted an armed Soviet invasion of South Africa. The former diplomat is quoted as telling Irvin: “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”.

Following his arrest, Mandela served nearly 30 years in prison on terrorism charges, until his eventual release in 1990. In 1994, he was elected as South Africa’s first black president, a post he held until his retirement in 1999. The US, which officially designated Mandela a terrorist in the 1980s under the administration of US President Ronald Reagan, kept the ANC leader on its terrorism watch list until 2008.

The US government has refused comment on Rickard’s claims.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 May 2016 | Permalink

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Did South African spy services kill Swedish prime minister in 1986?

Olof PalmeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The usually tranquil waters of Swedish national politics were stirred violently on February 28, 1986, when the country’s Prime Minister, Olof Palme, was shot dead. He was walking home from the cinema with his wife when he was gunned down by a single assassin who shot him from behind in Stockholm’s central street of Sveavägen. Following the 1988 acquittal of Christer Pettersson, who had been initially convicted of the assassination, several theories have been floating around, but the crime remains unsolved to this day. Now the BBC has aired an investigation into the incident, which revisits what some say is the most credible theory behind the killing: that Palme was targeted by the government of apartheid-era South Africa because of his strong support for the African National Congress (ANC). Palme was among the leading figures of the left wing in Sweden’s Social Democratic Party. He had served as Prime Minister from 1969 to 1976, and was reelected in 1982 on a left-wing program of “revolutionary reform” that included expanding the role of the trade unions and increasing progressive taxation rates. He was also a strong international opponent of South Africa’s apartheid system and under his leadership Sweden became the most ardent supporter of the ANC. By the mid-1980s, the country was providing nearly half of the ANC’s political funding. Swedish authorities viewed South African intelligence, especially the apartheid system’s State Security Bureau (BOSS), as the primary suspect in Palme’s assassination. In 2010, Tommy Lindström, former Director of the Swedish Police Service (Rikskriminalpolisen), said he was certain of the South African government’s complicity in Palme’s murder. After the end of apartheid, several South African former security officials said elements within the country’s intelligence services had authorized the assassination of the Swedish leader. But investigations by Swedish authorities remain inconclusive. Now the BBC’s security correspondent, Gordon Corera, has produced an investigation into the claims of South African complicity behind Palme’s murder. The investigation was aired on Monday by Document, an investigative program on BBC’s Radio 4 station. It is based on nearly 30 boxes of documents on the Palme assassination, found in the personal archive of the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Though known today primarily for his Millennium series, Larsson worked for most of his professional life as an investigative journalist specializing on the activities of the Swedish far-right. One of the documents in Larsson’s archive mentions Bertil Wedin, an anti-communist Swedish journalist, as “the middle man in the assassination” of Palme. Correra talks to several sources, including British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, who in 1988 alleged that the British security services had been aware of plots by Pretoria to kill Palme. Read more of this post

South African intel officials faked threats to increase spy budget

ANC centenary celebrationsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The tendency of some spy agencies to overstate security threats in order to secure governmental funds is hardly novel. But officials in the South African Secret Service appear to have gone a step further: they allegedly paid some of their informants to make bogus threats against the government, in order to prompt an increase in counterterrorist funding. According to Pretoria News, which is owned by The Independent, South Africa’s largest newspaper consortium, the bogus threats were aimed at creating “a false impression of imminent, unprecedented attacks on black people and African National Congress (ANC) members”. The ultimate goal of the perpetrators, says the paper, was to benefit personally from an increase in counterterrorist funding, which is said to run at around R600 million (US$72 million) per year. The plan was carefully designed to coincide with the run-up to the ANC’s centennial celebrations, which took place in January of this year. In one case, an informant was paid by Secret Service officials to record a video message threatening an uprising by whites against the country’s black-majority government, unless the latter put an end to the occupation of white-owned farmland by landless peasants. One video, which made “chilling threats” against black Africans and members of the ANC, was made publicly available on YouTube, causing widespread concern and prompting the government to beef up security measures around ANC facilities in several areas of the country. The threats also led to an extensive government investigation. Read more of this post

South African spy chief had secret US talks, embassy cable reveals

Moe Shaik

Moe Shaik

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
South Africa’s spy chief regularly gave the American embassy in Pretoria detailed information on internal African National Congress (ANC) politics, according to a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks. The cable, entitled “Zuma Advisor Threatens to Expose Political Skeletons”, was authored on September 10 2008 by the embassy and communicated to several recipients, including the State Department, CIA, and the National Security Council. It reveals that Moe Shaik, who heads the South African Secret Service (SASS), the country’s external intelligence agency, met regularly with an unnamed political officer of the US embassy and “always share[d] insights into the motivations and strategies of the Zuma camp”. The reference is to Jacob Zuma, President of the governing ANC, who assumed the organization’s leadership in May of 2009, after a bitter internal party struggle. Several months prior to Zuma’s election as ANC’s President, the organization’s rival faction, which was loyal to Thabo Mbeki, attempted to challenge Zuma’s eligibility by leveling corruption charges against him. Read more of this post

Civil war continues in South African spy agency

Arthur Fraser

Arthur Fraser

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In July of last year, South Africa’s ministerial Review Commission on Intelligence warned that a steadily declining culture of accountability in South Africa’s spy services threatened the country’s constitutional order. In October, the government’s minster for state security, Siyabonga Cwele, cited the Commission’s findings and policy suggestions in announcing a “major restructuring” of South Africa’s security services. Several months later, the “restructuring” process resembles a major civil war between rival political factions of the African National Congress. An entire generation of pro-ANC intelligence officials, who staffed the post-apartheid South African intelligence apparatus, has already been purged. The wave of purges was completed with the resignation this past week of Arthur Fraser, until recently director of the South African National Intelligence Agency’s Operations Division. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0244

  • Former S. African spy chief dies. Mike Louw former head of South Africa’s apartheid-era National Intelligence Service (NIS) and later the South African Secret Service (SASS), has died. As deputy director general at NIS, Louw helped facilitate some of the very first meetings between the government of F.W. De Klerk and Nelson Mandela, the then imprisoned leader of the African National Congress.
  • Kiwi spies get augmented cyber-surveillance powers. Reports from New Zealand indicate that new “cyber-monitoring measures have been quietly introduced”, giving the country’s law enforcement and intelligence services increased online surveillance powers. Veteran intelligence observer Nicky Hager describes the changes as “the largest expansion of police and [intelligence] surveillance capabilities [in New Zealand] for decades”.

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South Africa busts Shin Bet operation, expels Israeli agent

El Al logo

El Al logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The South African government has expelled an Israeli intelligence agent posing as an airline worker, after the discovery of a major Israeli undercover operation at the Oliver R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. The operation was uncovered by Carte Blanche, South African television’s most respected investigative news program, based on testimony by Jonathan Garb, a former guard at El Al, Israel’s national airline, who became a whistleblower after being fired from his job. Garb told Carte Blanche that El Al offices in South Africa and around the world have acted as fronts for Shin Bet, Israel’s General Security Service, for a long time. He also told the program that Shin Bet officers in Johannesburg used their El Al employee cover status to infiltrate the airport and gather information on black and Muslim South African travelers to Israel. Read more of this post