Nelson Mandela ‘Proven’ to Be a Member of the Communist Party After Decades of Denial

Colin Freeman, Telegraph (London), December 8, 2012

For decades, it was one of the enduring disputes of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. Was Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress, really a secret Communist, as the white-only government of the time alleged? Or, as he claimed during the infamous 1963 trial that saw him jailed for life, was it simply a smear to discredit him in a world riven by Cold War tensions?

Now, nearly half a century after the court case that made him the world’s best-known prisoner of conscience, a new book claims that whatever the wider injustice perpetrated, the apartheid-era prosecutors were indeed right on one question: Mr Mandela was a Communist party member after all.

The former South African president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, has always denied being a member of the South African branch of the movement, which mounted an armed campaign of guerrilla resistance along with the ANC.

But research by a British historian, Professor Stephen Ellis, has unearthed fresh evidence that during his early years as an activist, Mr Mandela did hold senior rank in the South African Communist Party, or SACP. He says Mr Mandela joined the SACP to enlist the help of the Communist superpowers for the ANC’s campaign of armed resistance to white rule.

His book also provides fresh detail on how the ANC’s military wing had bomb-making lessons from the IRA, and intelligence training from the East German Stasi, which it used to carry out brutal interrogations of suspected “spies” at secret prison camps.

As evidence of Mr Mandela’s Communist party membership, Prof Ellis cites minutes from a secret 1982 SACP meeting, discovered in a collection of private papers at the University of Cape Town, in which a veteran former party member, the late John Pule Motshabi, talks about how Mr Mandela was a party member some two decades before.

In the minutes, Mr Motshabi, is quoted as saying: “There was an accusation that we opposed allowing Nelson [Mandela] and Walter (Sisulu, a fellow activist) into the Family (a code word for the party) . . . we were not informed because this was arising after the 1950 campaigns (a series of street protests). The recruitment of the two came after.”

While other SACP members have previously confirmed Mr Mandela’s party membership, many of their testimonies were given under duress in police interviews, where they might have sought to implicate him. However, the minutes from the 1982 SACP meeting, said Prof Ellis, offered more reliable proof. “This is written in a closed party meeting so nobody is trying to impress or mislead the public,” he said.

Although Mr Mandela appears to have joined the SACP more for their political connections than their ideas, his membership could have damaged his standing in the West had it been disclosed while he was still fighting to dismantle apartheid.

Africa was a Cold War proxy battleground until the end of the 1980s, and international support for his cause, which included the Free Nelson Mandela campaign in Britain, drew partly on his image as a compromise figure loyal neither to East nor West.

“Nelson Mandela’s reputation is based both on his ability to overcome personal animosities and to be magnanimous to all South Africans, white and black, and that is what impressed the world,” said Prof Ellis, a former Amnesty International researcher who is based at the Free University of Amsterdam. “But what this shows is that like any politician, he was prepared to make opportunistic alliances.

“I think most people who supported the anti-apartheid movement just didn’t want to know that much about his background. Apartheid was seen as a moral issue and that was that. But if real proof had been produced at the time, some might have thought differently.”

Mr Mandela made his denial of Communist Party membership in the opening statement of his Rivonia trial, when he and nine other ANC leaders were tried for 221 alleged acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system. The defendants were also accused of furthering the aims of Communism, a movement that was then illegal in South Africa.

Addressing the court, Mr Mandela declared that he had “never been a member of the Communist Party,” and that he disagreed with the movement’s contempt for Western-style parliamentary democracy.

He added: “The suggestion made by the State that the struggle in South Africa is under the influence of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said.”

Mr Mandela joined the ANC in 1944, when its leadership still opposed armed struggle against the apartheid state. However, by the early 1950s he become personally convinced that a guerrilla war was inevitable, a view confirmed by the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960, when police in a Transvaal township opened fire on black demonstrators, killing 69 people.

But while other ANC leaders also came round to his way of thinking after Sharpeville, the group still had no access to weaponry or financial support. Instead, says Prof Ellis, Mr Mandela looked for help from the Communists, with whom he already had close contacts due to their shared opposition to apartheid.

“He knew and trusted many Communist activists anyway, so it appears he was co-opted straight to the central committee with no probation required,” said Prof Ellis. “But it’s fair to say he wasn’t a real convert, it was just an opportunist thing.”

In the months after Sharpeville, Communist party members secretly visited Beijing and Moscow, where they got assurances of support for their own guerrilla campaign. In conjunction with a number of leading ANC members, they set up a new, nominally independent military organisation, known as Umkhonto we Sizwe or Spear of the Nation. With Mr Mandela as its commander, Umkhonto we Sizwe launched its first attacks on 16 December 1961.

Its campaign of “sabotage” and bombings over the subsequent three decades claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, and led to the organisation being classed as a terrorist group by the US.

In his book, Professor Ellis, who also authored a publication on the Liberian civil war, elaborates on other murky aspects of the ANC’s past. One is that bomb-making experts from the IRA trained the ANC at a secret base in Angola in the late 1970s, a link disclosed last year in the posthumous memoirs of Kader Asmal, a South African politician of Indian extraction who was exiled in Ireland. He was a member of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, which, Prof Mr Ellis says, in turn had close links to the British and South African Communist parties.

The IRA tutoring, which was allegedly brokered partly through Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, led to the ANC fighters improving their bombing skills considerably, thanks to the expertise of what Mr Ellis describes as “the world’s most sophisticated urban guerrilla force”.

Angola was also the base for “Quatro”, a notorious ANC detention centre, where dozens of the movement’s own supporters were tortured and sometimes killed as suspected spies by agents from their internal security service, some of whom were “barely teenagers”. East German trainers taught the internal security agents that anyone who challenged official ANC dogma should be viewed as a potential spy or traitor.

On Friday night, a spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Foundation said: “We do not believe that there is proof that Madiba (Mandela’s clan name) was a Party member . . . The evidence that has been identified is comparatively weak in relation to the evidence against, not least Madiba’s consistent denial of the fact over nearly 50 years. It is conceivable that Madiba might indulge in legalistic casuistry, but not that he would make an entirely false statement.

“Recruitment and induction into the Party was a process that happened in stages over a period of time. It is possible that Madiba started but never completed the process. What is clear is that at a certain moment in the struggle he was sufficiently trusted as an ANC leader to participate in Party CC meetings. And it is probable that people in attendance at such meetings may have thought of him as a member.”

Mr Mandela, now 94, retired from public life in 2004 and is now in poor health. He did, though, allude to a symbiotic relationship with the Communists in his bestselling biography, The Long Walk to Freedom. “There will always be those who say that the Communists were using us,” he wrote. “But who is to say that we were not using them?”

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  • Puggg

    Surprising? No. Like knows like, or birds of a feather flock together.

    One egalitarian to another.

  • David Ashton

    Of course, he was “never a member of the Communist Party” – any more than the other heroes of “liberalism” like Alger Hiss and Robert Oppenheimer. And when they produced “How to be a Good Communist” in his own handwriting at the Rivonia Trial, it was (as he explained) just an attempt to teach a friend how to write a concise essay.

  • You Are Now Enriched

    Van Jones will call him a mentor and demand we respect Mandel’s communism as the future of progress.

    • Dr. X

      Yeah, exactly. I’m glad you mentioned Van Jones. I’m a whole lot less worried about Mandela being a communist than I am about the communist from Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law who worked for the Alinsky organization and then hired self-proclaimed “revolutionary communist” Van Jones to work in the White House.

      • David Ashton

        Don’t forget Obama’s mentor Frank Marshall Davis a card-carrying CPUSA member.

  • tarczan

    When this guy dies, it’ll be a real circus. Obama and hundreds of his lackeys will fly down there for the funeral.

    • GM (Australia)

      And as I have posted before we will have saturation coverage of the event for weeks, eulogies coming out of our ears ,tributes until we are sick of the name and renaming of streets, suburbs and even cities for decades to come. I am truly dreading it all.

      • IstvanIN

        And every European President, Prime Minister, Prince and Princess will be their to show their supplication to the great Mandela.

      • Nicholai Hel

        Bono will hold a memorial benefit concert for Nelson’s surviving relatives. Madonna will donate a wax copy of her hoo-ha to Winnie.

    • Fredrik_H

      And once he is in the ground, the blacks will step up their game. Once he’s gone, it will even tougher for the remaining afrikaaners.

    • Joseph

      We’ll probably sense a positive disturbance in the force while all of that evil is out of the country. As a bonus, the mean IQ of the country will temporarily rise.

    • Pelayo

      With any luck maybe they’ll offer him the Presidency. His two daughters can attend Oprah’s Academy.

  • Stentorian_Commentator

    Gee, communists lying. That’s a surprise.

    • The__Bobster

      And Senator McCarthy was proven right about everything, too.

      • http://www.facebook.com/allan.foster.370 Allan Foster

        But, of course, the liberals will go on blaming SENATOR McCarthy and his HOUSE Un-American Activities Committee!

        • David Ashton

          You are both quite right. That stupid Senator/House confusion can be found in reference books! I recommend Stanton Evans’ “Blacklisted by History” to everyone with an objective interest in McCarthy, beautifully written, fully documented, acquainted with all the oft-repeated lies and smears which are methodically refuted one by one. But for all their pretensions to reason, objectivity and honesty, liberals are the worst bigots of all. “Liberalism – the ideology of western suicide” (James Burnham).

  • NorthernWind

    I hate my own country for opposing apartheid. Nobody can honestly claim that South Africa is better off now than it was during apartheid. I have first hand testimony about how quickly things started to deteriorate from by Aunt who used to live in SA.

    It’s a damn shame. The rest of the world, especially countries like Sweden who had no damn idea, shouldn’t have participated in the takedown of SA.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aunti-Occupy/100003232140389 Aunti Occupy

      That is why Democrats love him so much. It is why Hillary Clinton idolizes Mendella.

      • Xerxes22

        A lot of Republicans idolize him too.

        • Joseph

          They have to to keep their jobs, just like MLK approbation.

          • Joseph

            Ron Paul is the only one who said that he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act because it violates the principle of free-association. See what happens to Repubs who go off script.

          • Sean

            Yet, by the numbers he could have won against ‘Bammer if Romney hadn’t been the GOP golden boy. So there’s a bright spot.

    • Joseph

      I think that the political powers behind this did have exactly that idea. More “order out of chaos” at work.

    • David Ashton

      Dr Verwoerd, who had a grand plan for partition based on the Tomlinson Commission Report on black & white settlement of southern Africa, was murdered by someone with a communist background.

  • So CAL Snowman

    IF he’s a black leader, he’s a communist. There’s even a 100% correct mathematical equation that proves this. Black = Communist

    • eduard

      So right; one idiot, one vote, and that is why mandelatopia is in such a shambles.

  • Flytrap

    And in other news, geese migrate to the South in the Fall.

  • The__Bobster

    I’m still waiting for the libtarded MSM to tell the truth about MLK and his commie ties.

    • Joseph

      The sun will consume all of its fuel in only seven billion years so I don’t think you should wait.

  • Epiminondas

    And in other news, journalists have discovered that the sky is blue.

  • JohnL.

    No one has been built up more by the mainstream Media than Nelson Mandela i.m.o. He’s a been made into some sort of demi god.

  • bigone4u

    Decades from now a flinty, take no prisoners white journalist will discover that Obama was also a communist.

    • David Ashton

      Neo-con David Horowitz has come close to doing this in advance.

  • The Great Unwashed

    OTS. The other night there were amazing satellite images beamed down that showed the entire planet illuminated. The pictures showed both north and south America. Europe. China and the pacific rim and Austrailia all with the lights on. But it did not show any illumination in sub-Saharan Africa. I guess the satellite could not pick up the light from dung-fueled campfires.

    • Laager

      The last time I saw this photo the lights of the Johannesburg-Pretoria conurbation showed up in Southern Africa. However with the ANC now “managing” Eskom, the electricity utility company, there is a more than even chance that the power stations were out of action – hence the total darkness.

  • Tom Penn

    A larger and much more significant issue underlies this story. What exactly in the thought of Marx and Lenin makes biological realism and “Jensenism” incompatible with Marxism-Leninism? It appears to be a question contemporary Russian intellectuals are considering
    in retrsopective. Reportedly, physical anthropology in the USSR took due cognizance of race
    and racial differences, if quietly.

    • David Ashton

      Marx and Engels were aware of racial differences. Lenin took the “liberation” of the colonial world further, while the modern “Cultural Marxists” have denied the biological basis of racial variation to sustain their revolution against white nationhood and family life.

      • Tom P

        I have begun to wonder if there would not be a place under the AR roof for
        radical leftists who understand that “nothing scientific can be racist and noting
        racist can be scientific” and that Marxism has been perverted by an environmentalism alien to contemporary science (and to the assumptions of Marx in his time,) The assumption that the core emphases of AR are right wing friendly and left wing aversive seems to me more a reflexive response than a deliberated and informed finding ? .

        • David Ashton

          An interesting comment. You raise some big issues, on which I shall make just a few points.

          (1) Marx and Engels should not be taken by anyone as if they are sacred scriptures. (2) It is useful to quote some of their “racist” remarks against people who do so; I shall post a few choice examples if you wish. (3) They seem to have believed in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. (4) They also held that even “naturally evolved differences within the species, such as racial differences…can and must be abolished in the course of historical development. (5) “The workers have no country.”

          Hitler said the key factors in history were “race” and “personality” (not economic determinism). Curiously, Borgius asked what place the “racial element” and “historic personality” in the Marx-Engels conception of history, and Engels replied: “Economic conditions ultimately determine historical development, but race is itself an economic factor”. And, of course, Marxism-Leninism would not have existed without the powerful personalities of Marx, Engels and Lenin.

          We can welcome decent and hardworking patriots of all “classes” in a brotherhood of resistance to both the global capitalism, which destroys nations and races, and the “Cultural Marxism” which exploits race, gender and class to pull down the achievements of the white west by a spurious egalitarianism.

  • Laager

    Besides authoring the document; “How To Be A Good Communist” presented as evidence against him at his treason trial – for which he received a life sentence and served 27 years – British PM Margaret Thatcher declared Mandela a terrorist. The USA, on President Ronald Reagan’s watch, placed him on their terrorist persona non grata list for being a terrorist.. Even when he became President of the RSA Mandela had to apply for a special visa to visit the USA as he was still on this list.

    During his incarceration he was offered his freedom twice on condition that he renounced violence as a means to achieve his political objectives. The first time was by PM Vorster at about 9 years and the second was by PM Botha at about 19 years. Both times Mandela refused to do so choosing to remain in prison instead to become a living martyr figure. In 1990 he was released unconditionally by PM de Klerk. To this day Mandela has not renounced violence.

    The liberal media then mounted their global propaganda campaign and succeeded in brainwashing all the liberal loonies of the world that Mandela was some kind of a genius and saintly figure. This campaign reached it’s zenith when Mandela was awarded the Nobel “Peace” Prize.

    To get an idea of Mandela’s concept of peace just GOOGLE Pretoria Church St Bombing

    This is just one of many acts of civilian terror that he presided over whilst outside and inside prison