An award-winning historian and journalist tells the very human story of apartheid’s afterlife, tracing the fates of South African insurgents, collaborators, and the security police through the tale of the clandestine photo album used to target apartheid’s enemies.
From the 1960s until the early 1990s, the South African security police and counterinsurgency units collected over 7,000 photographs of apartheid’s enemies. The political rogue’s gallery was known as the “terrorist album,” copies of which were distributed covertly to police stations throughout the country. Many who appeared in the album were targeted for surveillance. Sometimes the security police tried to turn them; sometimes the goal was elimination.
All of the albums were ordered destroyed when apartheid’s violent collapse began. But three copies survived the memory purge. With full access to one of these surviving albums, award-winning South African historian and journalist Jacob Dlamini investigates the story behind these images: their origins, how they were used, and the lives they changed. Extensive interviews with former targets and their family members testify to the brutal and often careless work of the police. Although the police certainly hunted down resisters, the terrorist album also contains mug shots of bystanders and even regime supporters. Their inclusion is a stark reminder that apartheid’s guardians were not the efficient, if morally compromised, law enforcers of legend but rather blundering agents of racial panic.
With particular attentiveness to the afterlife of apartheid, Dlamini uncovers the stories of former insurgents disenchanted with today’s South Africa, former collaborators seeking forgiveness, and former security police reinventing themselves as South Africa’s newest export: “security consultants” serving as mercenaries for Western nations and multinational corporations. The Terrorist Album is a brilliant evocation of apartheid’s tragic caprice, ultimate failure, and grim legacy.
In The Terrorist Album, Jacob Dlamini has managed to reconstruct some of apartheid South Africa’s most violent and disturbing episodes, despite the former regime’s extensive efforts to erase its crimes and cover its tracks. Using archival evidence and detailed interviews with both perpetrators and their victims’ families, Dlamini, a superb historian and memoirist, has excavated a story that otherwise would have been hidden and forgotten.
The Terrorist Album is wise, humane, and thoroughly original. With one artifact, Jacob Dlamini opens worlds: of history, of biography, of the archive, of photography and philosophy. With characteristic flair and insight, he offers a compelling narrative of the workings of repressive violence and the way human beings are crushed by it, or manage to transcend it.
Enables us to look anew at the brutality and bureaucracy that marked apartheid policing…The Terrorist Album traces the evolution of policing in South Africa: how it grew more and more depraved in its desperation to counter the state’s political illegitimacy…The human loss it uncovers is painful, yet there is also a hopeful side to the story…[It] arrives at a time when this widespread cover-up is once again the subject of public conversation in South Africa.
A harrowing descent into the hell of apartheid via documents the regime neglected to destroy. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter, and such people are made, not born…The apartheid regime created many through its campaign of repression and separation…Perhaps the greatest takeaway is [Dlamini’s] observation that no matter how a government tries to obliterate the past, it can never do so completely. An important document in the history of the apartheid era.
A monumental work of remembrance…Dlamini’s writing is lucid and captivating, moving between historical fact and careful biographical reconstruction. It is an invaluable addition to the greater and ongoing project of restoring to South Africans a history that some sought to erase and evade.
[A] remarkable book that invites a long-overdue reckoning…Dlamini navigates the underside of apartheid and its long shadow by asking difficult questions that few other scholars or journalists have had the nerve to investigate…Turns his attention more fully to the nature of the apartheid state and the bureaucratic, if no less nasty, security apparatus that netted the ANC defectors…Dlamini is a reliable guide to the dimmer paths of the apartheid state in its dying throes. As those shadowed trails begin to fade with memory, we may need to rely ever more on his insights.
Dlamini continues storytelling centered around the seemingly untold stories of the apartheid era.
A timely and important contribution. More significantly, it is a thought-provoking and unsettling examination of the apartheid state, its authoritarian bureaucracy, and its security apparatus through one artefact, the so-called Terrorist Album.
A compelling study of the mechanics of apartheid from the inside…Dlamini tells the life history of state documents used to compel, bend, persecute, pressure, torture, and ultimately in some cases kill the opponents of the white supremacist state, the so-called Terrorist Album. This is a history of memory, of forgetting, of violence, and of state failure.
- 400 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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