Despite decades of Nelson Mandela denying that he was an official member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) during his Soviet-backed war on the Apartheid government, evidence uncovered recently by British historian Stephen Ellis shows otherwise. The new research confirmed that not only was the African National Congress (ANC) leader a member of the SACP, he may have actually been a senior official working with the party’s Central Committee.
Still, for 50 years, while admitting that he was influenced by Marx and other communist luminaries, Mandela has denied — in public, at least — that he was an actual member of the Communist Party. But now, documents discovered at the University of Cape Town by Stephen Ellis, a professor based at the Free University of Amsterdam, completely contradict Mandela’s bogus claims.
Among other evidence, Ellis found minutes from a secret SACP meeting of top leaders in 1982. The papers document a high-level Communist Party functionary’s discussion about Mandela having joined the SACP around 20 years earlier. That would mean he joined in the beginning of the 1960s, probably 1961 or 1962, well before he was prosecuted for, among numerous other crimes, membership in the outlaw party backed by some of the most ruthless tyrants on the face of the Earth.
"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],” Communist leader and SACP Central Committee member John Pule Motshabi was quoted as saying in the minutes. “We were not informed because this was arising after the 1950 campaigns [a series of street protests]. The recruitment of the two came after."
Experts including Ellis, who first identified and publicized the documents, said it was some of the most compelling evidence to date proving that Mandela was actually a member of the SACP. However, some analysts attempted to dismiss the new finds as insignificant, portraying the former South African president’s party membership as a mere alliance of convenience that was supposedly necessary to overthrow the existing government.
Had the proof been more widely disseminated decades ago, though, it would have been much harder for the Western establishment, including the U.S. government, to openly join forces with communist tyrants to support the controversial figure in his often-brutal guerrilla war. Indeed, if the world had only been paying attention, the signs would have been obvious to even a casual observer.
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Photo of SACP boss Joe Slovo with Nelson Mandela at April 29, 1990 rally: AP Images