South Africa

Nuclear SA: Ep 1 – The Laager

By Sound Africa 16 January 2017

In 1993 South Africa became the only country to voluntarily dismantle its nuclear arsenal. But behind this widely-praised move was a shadowy history of a secret apartheid nuclear programme. In this episode, we delve into this hidden chapter of our nuclear past. By SOUND AFRICA.

This is the first of a four-part Sound Africa series exploring the tangled web of South Africa’s nuclear past, present and future.

Reporter Rasmus Bitsch begins this story at an art gallery in Johannesburg’s stylish suburb of Maboneng, where artist Vincent Bezuidenhout is shining a spotlight on South Africa’s secret nuclear history through his exhibition Fail Deadly. From there, we connect the dots between the struggle against apartheid, the Cold War, and South Africa’s development of nuclear weapons.

How important was the nuclear programme in the close-knit defensive position, or laager, adopted by the Afrikaner nationalist government? And did the bomb contribute to the state’s siege mentality? What history shows is that the nuclear programme fostered secrecy and paranoia, and it arguably still casts a shadow over South African politics today. DM

Sound Africa is an independent South African podcast collective. The podcast above is part of our second season, Nuclear SA. Visit soundafrica.org to find our more about us and support independent media in SA. And make sure to rate us on iTunes so that others can find us.

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