A document from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), reveals that the apartheid government released Nelson Mandela from jail out of fear of a massive backlash if the struggle icon died in prison, Business Day has reported.
The document was titled Nelson Mandela: What if Alive and Well and Free in SA. Property of the People, a US-based organisation committed to governmental transparency, released the document on Tuesday to mark the struggle icon’s centenary.
“South African officials have been considering Mandela’s release primarily because they fear that the death in prison of the aging leader (who is 68) would trigger massive upheavals and would intensify international criticism‚” according to the document.
It further states that South African officials believed releasing Mandela could work in their favour by helping them gain international favour.
“Some South African officials believe that his release could produce a public relations bonanza,” it says.
A young Nelson Mandela. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.
More disturbingly, the document suggests that it was thought that Mandela’s release would create division among South Africa’s “black community.”
“It also might exacerbate existing ideological divisions in the black community and throw the ANC and other opponents off stride as they adjust to his return to the political fray‚” the document says.
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The CIA believed Mandela’s sincerity about there still being space for white South Africans in a “black-ruled” SA.
They also expressed a belief that Mandela would be motivated to compromise and negotiate quickly due to his age.
“Mandela’s age and his perception of his place in history are likely to push him to move quickly on talks. His perception that there is relatively little time left to him might enhance his willingness to compromise on secondary issues.”
The document also reveals an offer the apartheid government had made Madiba, that he would be freed on condition he returned to his homeland in Transkei, an offer he rejected.
The CIA document also expands on what the US felt Mandela’s release would mean for them.
“We believe that if he were released from prison‚ he would be willing to talk to the US officials but would probably insist on a high-level meeting and resist suggestions that he modify his basic demands or agree to a lengthy transition to black majority rule.”