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.
*We regret an error in an earlier version of this episode in which we incorrectly state that Che Guevara led troops into the war in Angola.*
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Sound Africa is an independent podcast collective based in South Africa. We focus on creative non-fiction from the African continent and are always looking for talented journalists and storytellers to collaborate with. If you are one of them or want to get in touch, send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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