Former spy boss tells all in new book

Niel Barnard was instructed to have talks with Nelson Mandela about the possibility of a democracy.

Secret Revolution – 'Memoirs of a Spy Boss' book. Picture: NB Publishers

CAPE TOWN - Former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Niel Barnard on Friday said his recently published book, Secret Revolution - Memoirs of a Spy Boss, was an important story to be told because it highlights the essential role secret agents played behind the scenes of a peaceful transition into democracy.

During the late 1980s, Barnard, who was the as head of the NIS at the time, was instructed by PW Botha to conduct talks with apartheid's number one enemy, the late President Nelson Mandela.

These talks were held in secret and centred on the possibility of a democratic election and a majority government.

Barnard said the talks were even shrouded from the Cabinet.

"NIS played a crucial role in at least providing the sound foundation for finding a peaceful settlement in this country. The reason for that was good intelligence. We created a fertile opportunity, Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African government to find a peaceful settlement. That's it."

The book details the meetings held between Barnard and Mandela but also tell of the special personal bond that developed between the two.

"If you talk about spies people think it's fast cars and James Bonds and beautiful naked women but that is not what it is about. It's about providing good intelligence to people who must decide on the security of the country."

[LISTEN] Niel Barnard talks about his book, Secret Revolution - Memoirs of a Spy Boss, as told to Tobie Wiese