The apartheid historian’s struggle: black betrayal and its effects

Presented by Robyn Bloch

Monday, 5 June, 2017 - 15:00

In his 2014 book Askari: A Story of Collaboration and Betrayal in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle historian Jacob Dlamini considers why collaborator Glory Sedibe turned from being a commander in the ANC’s military arm to working with fervour for the apartheid Security Branch. Askari is about the nature of collaboration: what constitutes complicity and how can we think along more complicated lines when we turn to the past’s narratives. It other major concern is the point at which narratives of victimhood depart into narratives of the perpetrator alongside the notion of personal moral agency. The historian’s struggle to confront black betrayers is illuminated by his protective relationship with his subjects, which then morphs into disgust. All the while Dlamini, I argue, creates a moral structure through which to exclude himself from being part of the continuum of betrayal while safely creating a series of provocations. Yet his subject of study, Sedibe, remains a spectral figure. Thus I believe it is Dlamini and his struggle with the past that forms the centre of the book. But what Askari does not confront is the question: what is the result of the black apartheid agent? What was the ANC’s reaction to the phenomenon of betrayal? The book has a missing mirror self that eerily reflects the story of capture and torture by apartheid security personnel, but this time coming from the ANC. The result of the askari, I argue, is the evisceration of the ANC’s noble narrative.

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