A U.S. diplomat based in South Africa, and not a CIA agent, was responsible for the 1962 arrest of black leader Nelson R. Mandela, who was incarcerated for 27 years, it was reported today.
The Afrikaans daily Beeld, rebutting a report in the Johannesburg Sunday Times that the CIA was involved in Mandela’s capture, quoted anonymous “senior police officers” as denying that the agency was directly involved in the arrest.
The sources said an unnamed staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria leaked details of the fugitive anti-apartheid activist’s movements to a noncommissioned security policeman who was a “good friend.”
“The diplomat told the policeman certain things in conversation which led (the policeman) to Mandela’s trail,” a senior officer told Beeld.
That information resulted in Mandela’s arrest at a roadblock the night of Aug. 5, 1962, the officer said.
The Sunday Times had named Millard Shirley, who was reportedly head of covert operations in southern Africa in the 1960s, as the CIA agent who engineered Mandela’s arrest, quoting retired South African police spy Gerard Ludi.
Ludi speculated that the U.S. government wanted Mandela “out of the way” because of his links to communism, particularly the South African Communist Party.
“During the ‘60s, Communist expansion in Africa was one of America’s biggest bugbears,” Ludi said.
Shirley retired in 1973 and died in a car accident in Swaziland in 1988.