(London Telegraph) 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.