Mandela Mossad Peres
Nelson Mandela, here with Shimon Peres, reportedly received military training by Israel's Mossad Reuters

Nelson Mandela was trained in sabotage, martial arts and weaponry by Israeli secret services a few months before he was arrested in South Africa in 1962.

According to top secret documents from the Israel State Archive revealed by Haaretz newspaper, Mossad agents in Ethiopia provided military training to the anti-apartheid icon and tried to instil pro-Zionist sentiments in the then 44-year-old South African activist.

His trainers were reportedly unaware of Mandela's true identity, as he introduced himself under the alias of David Mobsari.

They found out who the man really was only after Mandela was arrested on 5 August 1962, and his photos published across the world.

"As you may recall, three months ago we discussed the case of a trainee who arrived at the [Israeli] embassy in] Ethiopia by the name of David Mobsari who came from Rhodesia," a letter dated 11 October, 1962 and sent to the Foreign Ministry and to Israel's ambassador to Ethiopia by a Mossad operative read.

"The aforementioned received training from the Ethiopians in judo, sabotage and weaponry."

The Ethiopians was the nickname used to refer to Mossad's unit in the African country, Haaretz reported.

Prior to his arrest Mandela covertly visited several African countries, including Ethiopia, to gather support for the African National Congress (ANC) and its struggle against South Africa's apartheid regime.

The letter's subject line was "the Black Pimpernel", the nickname used by South African press for Mandela.

"He greeted our men with "Shalom", was familiar with the problems of Jewry and of Israel and gave the impression of being an intellectual," the letter read. "The staff tried to make him into a Zionist.

"In conversations with him, he expressed socialist worldviews and at times created the impression that he leaned toward communism," it added.

"It now emerges from photographs that have been published in the press about the arrest in South Africa of the 'Black Pimpernel' that the trainee from Rhodesia used an alias, and the two men are one and the same."

In the early Sixties Israel's foreign policy was supportive of African independence movements and post-colonial states.

After the 1967 Six Day War, Israel shifted its policy and started fostering diplomatic relationship with the South African government with which it reportedly started a partnership for nuclear-weapons development.

The revelation came a week after Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu snubbed memorial ceremonies for Mandela who died aged 95 on 5 December.

Mandela Arafat
Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat greet each other in Cairo in 1990 Reuters