U.S presidential candidate Joe Biden has sparked interest with new claims that he was arrested in apartheid South Africa in the late 70s for trying to see an incarcerated Nelson Mandela.
These claims were probed in a recent New York Times article which highlighted that he only recently began telling the story which was never included in his memoir or mentioned publically. The authors of the article found it particularly odd that he has been telling the story with increasing frequency in recent weeks.
While he has mentioned his work as an anti-apartheid activist and spoken about travelling to South Africa before, there has been little to no mention of this arrest.
“A check of available news accounts by The New York Times turned up no references to an arrest. South African arrest records are not readily available in the United States,” reported the Times.
Biden, who was a United States senator from Delaware at the time in question claims to have been arrested in the company of the United State’s U.N. ambassador at the time. The Times tracked down one Andrew Young who served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979.
“No, I was never arrested and I don’t think he was, either,” Young told the publication.
While the claim of arrest is what is of interest to U.S citizens, South Africans found themselves amused by the geographical improbability of Biden’s statement.
“I had the great honor of meeting him. I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robbens Island,” said Biden according to the Times.
Soweto is a township located in Gauteng, South Africa, bordering the city’s mining belt in the south. Its name is an English syllabic abbreviation for South Western Townships.
Robben Island is an island in Table Bay, 6.9 kilometres west of the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, South Africa.
To travel from Soweto to Robben Island would take no less than 3 hours (if you’re flying from Johannesburg to Cape Town and then taking a ferry to the island) and it would take even longer if you’re travelling by road or rail.
People all over the world took to social media to share their thoughts on Biden’s claims.
What is so sad is that, as @Sentletse points out, Biden did some good fighting apartheid.
— Johan Lorenzen (@JohanLorenzen) February 22, 2020
Joe Biden in the streets of Soweto, on his way to see Mandela at Robben Island pic.twitter.com/l9gtDkaYQg
— Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi (@Pearloysias) February 22, 2020
Aside from the denials, the idea of Joe Biden getting arrested in Soweto as he was "trying to get to see [Nelson Mandela] on Robbens Island [sic]” is… not very plausible. https://t.co/Z3epRQPoPj pic.twitter.com/arCz9YzEGr
— Michael Bueckert ???????? (@mbueckert) February 21, 2020
He refuses to answer them.
It's fundamentally disqualifying that he's doing this OVER AND OVER again. https://t.co/i17ZYXeEmL
— Shaun King (@shaunking) February 21, 2020
Did I just read that Joe Biden said he was arrested in Soweto on his way to Robben Island to visit Mandela? pic.twitter.com/PkXlmCiE4r
— The Real Flo Letoaba (@floletoaba1) February 21, 2020
(Compiled by Kaunda Selisho)