Mandela is named as MI6 agent

By Neil Mackay Home Affairs Editor

Publication date: March 19, 2000

NELSON Mandela is to be named as an MI6 agent who aided British intelligence officers with operations against Colonel Gadaffi's Libyan weapons programmes, supplied his handlers with details of arms shipments to Ulster terrorists and allowed UK spying operations to be based in South Africa.

Allegations of Mandela's recruitment by the British intelligence service will be revealed in a controversial new book, MI6: Fifty Years of  Special Operations, by the acclaimed intelligence expert Stephen Dorril. The book is due to be published at the end of this month.

MI6 launched an unsuccessful legal challenge to get the book's publisher, Fourth Estate, to release its contents. Special Branch officers also raided the London publishing house and seized computer equipment, but did not unearth details of Mandela's recruitment by MI6.

British intelligence chiefs are outraged that they failed to access the contents of Dorril's book after an Old Bailey judge ordered on Friday that the Guardian and Observer newspapers hand over documents relating to the former MI5 officer David Shayler. The ruling was made on the grounds that the papers could help police prosecute the rogue spy under the Official Secrets Act. Shayler had made claims that MI6 was involved in a plot to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi.

Stephen Dorril's book will stun the world with its allegations about Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. It is thought that Mandela's recruitment would have been motivated partly by his virulent anti-communism. In return MI6 offered information about potential assassination attempts on his life.

Dorril claims highly-placed MI6 officers told him about Mandela's recruitment by the Secret Intelligence Service - the arm of British intelligence which undertakes espionage activities overseas, recruits foreign spies and engages in counter- espionage against foreign agents working in the UK.

Sources within the Foreign Office and the intelligence service have said that Dorril's claim "is entirely credible". Last night, the Foreign Office did nothing to deny the allegation that Mandela worked for MI6. There were also no denials, or threats of legal action against the book, from either Nelson Mandela's office in Johannesburg, South Africa or his London-based lawyers.

Part of Dorril's book, on the activities of MI6 in Africa, reads: "Another MI6 catch was ANC leader Nelson Mandela. Whether Mandela was recruited in London before he was imprisoned in South Africa is not clear, but it is understood that on a recent trip to London he made a secret visit to MI6's training section to thank the service for its help in foiling two assassination attempts directed against him soon after he became president."

Dorril says the assassination attempts referred to probably included one from within a faction of the African National Congress (ANC) which was bitterly opposed to Mandela's successful maneuvering to oust Communist Party leaders from under the umbrella of the African National Congress. Another is believed to have been planned by a covert operations wing of the apartheid government's military.

Dorril, a writer on intelligence issues and a lecturer at Huddersfield University, claims Mandela was of use to MI6 as his friendliness with Colonel Gadaffi's Libyan government paved the way for the hand-over of the two Libyan agents accused of the Lockerbie bombing.

Both the British and American governments are keen to rebuild relations with Libya to exploit the country's rich oil fields. "Mandela was the key to turning Libya from a terrorist state to one open to the West," Dorril told the Sunday Herald. "The result of his actions will be a huge economic boost to western economies. It can be said that he charmed Gaddafi for western economic interests." He claimed MI6's psychological warfare, or IOps, department - responsible for propaganda - helped massage international opinion allowing Mandela to visit Gadaffi without courting virulent western opprobrium.

Dorril added: "Mandela helped MI6 with information over Libya's funding and arming of the IRA, and the sending of arms to loyalist terrorists in Ulster from apartheid South Africa." Dorril claimed Mandela told his MI6 handlers about Libya's attempts to develop chemical and biological warfare capabilities, and informed them about South Africa's own secret nuclear arsenal.

Dorril claims in his book that Britain did not push for full disclosure of South Africa's biological weapons programme as part of its plan to support Mandela when he was president, and Mandela helped stem the tide of South African scientists being recruited by Libya to build Gadaffi's bio-weapons programme.

One of MI6's biggest overseas stations is in South Africa. It was a key spy center during the Cold War as Russia and America fought to take countries like neighboring Mozambique and Angola into their sphere of influence. South Africa is also key to Britain's economic interests because of its natural uranium, gold and platinum deposits.

It is unclear exactly when Mandela was recruited. Nor is it clear whether MI6 courted Mandela with warnings about assassination attempts in order to lure him into the service's clutches, or if he was recruited and provided MI6 with information and then received the warnings in return.

The publisher of the book, Fourth Estate, has been under intense pressure to reveal the contents of Dorril's 900 page work to MI6 prior to its publication on March 30. MI6 made a request through its lawyers for a full disclosure of the contents but Fourth Estate successfully fended off the challenge. However, the publishing house was raided under a search warrant by Special Branch officers who seized the computer of Fourth Estate editor-in-chief Clive Priddle which contained notes on the book. According to Nicky Eaton, Fourth Estate's publicist, the intelligence service is unaware of the Mandela claim. The book has been meticulously poured over for accuracy by Fourth Estate's own lawyers.

Both Neil Harold, from Mandela's personal office, and Mandela's London lawyer, Iqbal Meer, of Meer Care Desai, were stunned by the allegations coming to light. They were both unable to contact Mandela last night to brief him on the claims. It is thought he is holidaying in the South African countryside, and is not contactable. Dorril claims his revelations are not damaging to Mandela's reputation. "There is nothing defamatory about being a recruit for MI6," he said.

Officially the Foreign Office said it could not comment on the allegation as it was a security matter. However, unofficially senior Foreign Office sources hinted that the recruitment claim was credible. One said: "If we focus on the allegations referring to assassination claims, it is not surprising that the ANC would have sought security advice from the UK, or its intelligence services, to protect key individuals."

Foreign analysts and African experts also claim that Mandela's recruitment into MI6 is not only credible but will also have a seismic effect internationally.

One expert on Southern Africa said: "His life history shows how he would have been attractive to MI6 and MI6 would have been attractive to him. Mandela is deeply anti- communist. As a young man he would break up Communist Party meetings with his fists. Later in life, he came to realize that to end apartheid he needed every ally he could get and he pragmatically decided to get into bed with the Communists.

"Mandela admires Britain, its parliamentary democracy and its judicial system. Once he went into jail, Mandela moved further and further away from the Communists, privately pouring scorn on their policies. When he was freed, a struggle began for the soul of the ANC between the Communists and the 'democrats', like Mandela."

There has been intense speculation, including allegations by Winni Mandela, that the South African Communist leader, Chris Hani, who was assassinated in 1992, apparently by white extremists, may in fact have been a victim of this internal feud. "Many of the democrats in the ANC certainly hated the Communists enough to have them killed.

"British diplomats were also central to smoothing the end of apartheid during negotiations between Mandela and President De Klerk. It can not be underestimated how many MI6 and CIA officers were working in this area. Their numbers were colossal."