Helena Uambembe: Listening to images of 32 Battalion

by Keely Shinners

From 1966 to 1990, during the Apartheid era in South Africa, an estimated 600,000 men — most of them school-leaving white men — were conscripted for national military service in the South African Defence Force (SADF). They underwent training and were deployed to fight against liberation movements in Namibia and Angola. [1] These conflicts in neighbouring countries have been rather vaguely described as the Border War, both at the time and in contemporary literature. They formed a part of the National Party’s total response to what it perceived as a total onslaught of communism and African nationalism, and as a result, the state regularly enacted violence against its own citizens in an attempt to suppress anti-Apartheid resistance in South Africa. [2] A useful way to think about the function of the SADF might be found in Achille Mbembe’s Necropolitics (2019): “Power … continuously refers and appeals to exception, emergency, and a fictionalised notion of the enemy. It also labours to produce the same exception, emergency, and fictionalised enemy.” [3] 

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