While the US now celebrates and praises Nelson Mandela as the father of South Africa, in the past Mandela was regarded as a dangerous revolutionary associated with violence and communists. The CIA apparently helped ensure his arrest in August of 1962.
In an article published in January of 2005, William Blum sets out the background of the CIA involvement in the arrest of Nelson Mandela. Ultimately Mandela was convicted and was jailed for a total of 28 years.
By the time Mandela was released in February of 1990, his stature had changed dramatically and then President George Bush Sr. telephoned Mandela to say that Americans rejoiced at his release. Blum points out that this was the same George Bush who once was head of the CIA and who was second in power during an administration that worked closely with South African Intelligence service to provide information about Mandela's African National Congress. The African National Congress was seen by the US as part of the "International Communist Conspiracy".
In the early forties, Mandela had already contact with communists and went to meetings although he did not join the party because Mandela, as a Christian, opposed their atheism, and he also saw the South African struggle as based primarily on race rather than class:"Staying with a cousin in George Goch Township, Mandela was introduced to the realtor and ANC activist Walter Sisulu, who secured him a job as an articled clerk at law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman. The company was run by a liberal Jew, Lazar Sidelsky, who was sympathetic to the ANC's cause. At the firm, Mandela befriended Gaur Redebe, a Xhosa member of the ANC and Communist Party, as well as Nat Bregman, a Jewish communist who became his first white friend. Attending communist talks and parties, Mandela was impressed that Europeans, Africans, Indians and Coloureds were mixing as equals. However, he stated later that he did not join the Party because its atheism conflicted with his Christian faith, and because he saw the South African struggle as being racially based rather than class warfare."On August 5 of 1962 Mandela had been hiding from police for 17 months when his car was flagged down outside the town of Howick in Natal at a roadblock. Only later did stories appear explaining why the police set up the roadblock in that place. Three South African newspapers, and the London Press, ran stories that claim a CIA officer Donald Rickard who worked undercover as a consular official in Durban had tipped off the South African Special Branch that Mandela would be disguised as a chauffeur in a car headed for Durban. Rickard obtained this information through an informant in the ANC.
Apparently, a year later, at a party, he is reported to have said that he had been due to meet Mandela on that night. However, Rickard later refused to discuss the issue when he was approached by CBS. While Mandela went on to serve 28 years in prison where he suffered tuberculosis from the damp cell he was in for years and other health problems, Rickard retired comfortably in Pagosa Springs Colorado. Still, Mandela has managed to survive into his nineties as a revered figure while Rickard is forgotten by most people.
The New York TImes also had an article on the issue citing a report from Cox News: "The report, scheduled for publication on Sunday, quoted an unidentified retired official who said that a senior C.I.A. officer told him shortly after Mr. Mandela's arrest: ''We have turned Mandela over to the South African Security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be.'' "
A good summary of Mandela's political activity is given in Wikipedia.