Former South African President Nelson Mandela passed away Thursday evening at the age of 95. While he was revered by politicians today as a human rights icon, Mandela remained on the U.S. terrorism watch list until 2008, when then-President George W. Bush signed a bill removing Mandela from it.
Then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the restrictions a “rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterpart, the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader Nelson Mandela.”
“He had no place on our government’s terror watch list, and I’m pleased to see this bill finally become law,” then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in 2008.
South Africa’s apartheid regime designated Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) as a terrorist organization for its battle against the nation’s legalized system of racial segregation that lasted from 1948 to 1994.
Former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also described Mandela’s ANC as a “typical terrorist organization” in 1987, refusing to impose sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime. President Ronald Reagan did as well.
In 1986, former Vice President Dick Cheney, then a congressman, voted along with 179 other members of the House against a non-binding resolution to recognize the ANC and call on the South African government to release Mandela from prison. The measure finally passed, but not before a veto attempt by Reagan.
In 2000, Cheney maintained that he’d cast the correct vote.