US PRESIDENTIAL contender Joe Biden has been forced to admit that his claims of being arrested after attempting to meet Nelson Mandela were false.
Biden has said on a number of occasions that he was arrested during a trip there in the 1970s, when South Africa was under apartheid rule.
Biden – who was at the time a senator for Delaware – said he had been visiting the country with a delegation of American officials, and had planned to visit Mandela in prison.
However during the trip, he said he had “had the great honour of being arrested with our UN ambassador on the streets of Soweto” while trying to reach the civil rights leader on Robben Island.
He re-iterated the claim at a recent black history awards event brunch in Las Vegas saying that Mandela had thanked him for his efforts.
However Biden’s account of the supposed arrest was rebuffed by Andrew Young, the US ambassador to the UN at the time, who says he travelled with Biden to South Africa.
Fact checkers from the Washington Post called the claim “ridiculous” and local media in South Africa also failed to find any evidence of an arrest.
Biden has been campaigning in South Carolina which has a large percentage of African American voters.
Success there is seen as critical for Biden’s hopes to emerge as the front-runner for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
Earlier this week a spokesperson for Biden told the media reporters that he was actually referring to an incident where he was “separated” from black colleagues at an airport.
When questioned by journalists that being separated was not the same thing as being arrested the spokesperson said again that it had been a “separation”.
Biden, as a senator, was active in the anti-apartheid movement, helping pass sanctions on companies doing business in South Africa over President Ronald Reagan’s veto.