In honor of the 22 anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison, I have compiled from the CIA's publicly released archives, a collection of the most interesting documents and factoids available on or about Nelson Mandela.
In response to a Mandatory Declassification Review, the CIA processed a 9/26/1986 Directorate of Intelligence Report titled,” Nelson Mandela: What if Alive and Well and Free in South Africa [redacted].
The report reveals that Mandela, despite South African claims to the contrary, was not a Communist. Additionally, Mandela refused to renounce violence in order to secure his release from prison, preferring to remain in jail because he “almost certainly believes that his remaining in prison serves the black cause better than his accepting a conditional release. He evidently calculates that his continued imprisonment keeps international attention focused on the South Africa problem and discredits government reform efforts that do not include him.”
Another striking feature of the report is that Mandela was viewed as particularly close to death and there was an acute fear of him dying in prison.
Compare this version to the 2006 release version and you'll notice that despite the passage of twenty years and the deaths of many South African, African National Congress, and American figures related to this issue, we're still not allowed to know a single additional word of the report. In fact, the CIA released the document with zero new information declassified. The only difference is that the CIA switched the color of the redactions from black to a white.
One of the scenario likely contained within redactions of the above document is a renewed military campaign by the ANC. According to an article in the 4/8/1985 Terrorism Review, “if [Mandela] were to leave the country and actively resume his position as head of the ANC, many young blacks would follow him to fight under his leadership” and “ a reinvigorated ANC with Mandela at the helm might even cause a shift in attitudes among leaders of neighboring black states. They are currently are following a policy of cautious détente with Pretoria, but their hatred of apartheid could overcome fear of South African retribution if they believed the ANC's military campaign had a reasonable chance of success.”
Here is the undated CIA profile of “Mike” "An Angry Young Black" supporter of Nelson Mandela. It is social/cultural history profile produced by the CIA on young black men in 1980s South Africa.
If this Mandela reader is giving a different view of Mandela, this is because you're seeing Mandela as the American and South African governments viewed and portrayed him at that time. He had yet to win. He was still a terrorist. The ANC was still a Soviet-backed terrorist organization.
Here is a 10/28/1961 Central Intelligence Bulletin reported on a sabotage campaign by the African National Congress which was called for by Mandela and which “would concentrate initially on telephone lines and government offices but later might include roadblocks and railroad sabotage.”
This 3/31/1979 National Intelligence Daily reports on the African National Congress's view that “terrorism, civil disorder, strikes, and propaganda are the only practical means now available to break down authority within South Africa.” It also reported that the ANC was receiving assistance from the Soviet Union, Cubans, and East Germany while possessing infrastructure in Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, and Swaziland.
This NIE -94-4: Prospects for the South African Transition- is an estimative product on how the transaction from apartheid would occur. The US IC predicted a 1 in 20 chance which, the CIA believed "would push South Africa to the brink of anarchy" and lead the ANC to "resort to large-scale violence to protest such an outcome." This wasn't the only violence predicted by the CIA. This NIE is laden with violent end game scenarios resulting murder, mayhem, and bloodshed.
In addition to the violence, this NIE is notable for calling out early Nelson Mandela's commitment to economic pragmatism. Too bad, Mandela's supporters didn't read this he smashed their hopes for economic justice. The CIA also predicted a 1 in 100 chance of an act of nuclear terrorism.
SNIE 73.2-85 Prospects for South Africa: Stability, Reform, and Violence has very little about Mandela, but a great deal of information on the cultural, social, economic, and military situation.
My favorite two factoids:
- One in 8 South African whites were involved in the internal defense structure necessary to maintain apartheid in mid 1980s.
- Interestingly, black townships were built to facilitate white dominance. As documented by the NIE Township roads wide enough for a South African armored personnel carrier to make a U-turn, House built no closer than a specified distance so as not to impede police weapons fire and to make it more difficult for a fugitive to evade authoritiesConvenient vantage points for police vehicles to gather and monitor wide areas of the townships.A distance between the boundaries of the township and main highways in the area that exceeded the range of a high-powered rifle, presumably to protect travelers from snipers and even errant police shots in the event of a serious disturbance.
Libya's support to the African National Congress paid off when Mandela, grateful for Libyan assistance during the anti-apartheid struggle, called for the end of sanctions against the Qaddafi regime. South Africa also began to cultivate Libya as a market for South African goods.
9/9/1998 Sub-Saharan Africa: Seeking Pragmatic Relations with Rogue States
SNIE 73-86 The African National Congress of South Africa: Organization, Communist Ties, and Short-Term Prospects contains a great deal of background information on the ANC and its organization allies.
Key highlights and fun factoids:
- The ANC was "externally based and bureaucratically complex organization."
- The CIA estimated a quarter of the ANC were also members of the South African Communist Party.
- It also notes that Mandela didn't even hold an official position in the ANC despite being popularly viewed as its leader.