History : When Morocco helped Nelson Mandela during his fight against the Apartheid regime

In 1962, Morocco delivered weapons for the ANC fighters. Nelson Mandela had even spent a few months in the Kingdom. Abdelkrim El Khatib played a crucial role in bringing both Hassan II and Mandela together. The two men met, for the second time, in 1994 in Rabat. While in prison for 27 years, Morocco moved away from the ANC and stood closer next to the South African regime.

King Hassan and Nelson Mandela during his visit to Morocco in 1994./Ph. DR
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As King Mohammed VI held talks with the South African President Jacob Zuma at the 5th African Union-European Union summit in Abidjan, Yabiladi chose to shed light on a chapter in history that once linked Morocco and the African National Congress (ANC) party. In the early 1960s, Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and Morocco collaborated with the help of Abdelkrim El Khatib, Minister of State for African Affairs at the time and the founding father of Justice and Development Party (PJD).

From 1960 to 1962, Mandela was staying in Morocco. In Oujda, he met with the leaders of the National Liberation Front (FLN), a socialist political party in Algeria. At the time the Kingdom was a refuge for the figures of resistance in Africa. They were all coming to Morocco inspired by King Mohammed V and the leaders of the Nationalist Movement such as Allal El Fassi, Mehdi Ben Barka and Mohamed El Basri.

It is during this period that the young Mandela joined Houari Boumediene, Ben Bella, Mohamed Boudiaf and Agustino Neto (the first president of the Republic of Angola between 1975 and 1979), Amilcar Cabral, founder of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, and many others who had taken refuge in Morocco.

The first weapons delivery to Mandela

All these names dreamed of the day their countries would embrace independence and freedom and Mandela shared the same ambitions. In fact, he was more interested in freedom and equality. Since 1948, his country had been controlled by the apartheid regime, a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa. But Mandela was lucky enough to meet Abdelkarim El Khatib, who transmitted his grievance to the Moroccan palace.

In 1962, King Hassan II ordered El Khatib to hand over money, deliver weapons and ammunition to the ANC fighters. The current  Prime Minister, Saadeddine El Othmani, had even indicated during a political rally, held in May 2013 in Rabat that this weapon delivery was the first one received by Mandela’s friends from a foreign country.

Unfortunately, relations between Mandela and Morocco were abruptly interrupted on July the 12th 1963, when the ANC leader was arrested. During the 27 years Mandela spent in prison, Morocco drifted away from the ANC getting closer to the South African regime. Rabat at that time supported Pretoria during the Angolan crisis.

In 1994 Mandela thanks Hassan II

Once released on February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela went on a tour visiting several countries. Morocco was on his list. In November 1994, he visited the kingdom meeting with king Hassan II who decorated him. However, this visit did not help better the diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Things got worse by 2004 when South Africa decided to recognize «SADR». Since then, Pretoria became one of most strong supporters of the Separatist movement.