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On-line version ISSN 2309-9585
Print version ISSN 0259-0190


ADAMS, Zuleiga. Demitrios Tsafendas and the subversion of apartheid's paper regime. Kronos [online]. 2014, vol.40, n.1, pp.198-224. ISSN 2309-9585.

This article explores how Demitrios Tsafendas subverted the apartheid regime's immigration system designed to keep out people like himself: those with a history of madness and of what could be seen as impure racial origins. What makes this so remarkable is that, after 20 years of illegal immigration, deportation and stays in mental hospitals, Tsafendas not only circumvented South Africa's identity paper routines, he succeeded in assassinating the man credited as the architect of the apartheid state system. For the apartheid government, what was at stake was how Tsafendas managed to get into the country. The assassination of Verwoerd exposed the irrationality at the core of a racial order maintained by a repressive network that included one of the most efficient security police forces in the world. Since no breach of state security could be found, the answer was sought in the failure of a bureaucracy, known for its excessive recordkeeping, to keep efficient track of the life of the assassin. The article also demonstrates the coexistence within the apartheid state of two technologies of power, and the tensions and contradictions that arose when the methods of a dictatorial police state were used against one section of the population to defend the interests of another. The commission of enquiry into Verwoerd's murder exposed the fault lines of a bureaucratic apparatus overburdened by processes designed to shore up an insecure whiteness.

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