The Tapeworm presents…



TTW#138 – Nigel Wrench – ZA87

Cassette only – limited edition of 100 copies
Buy on Bandcamp

A: Seen - “This is the devil’s government"
B: Unseen - “You want him to disappear”

Illustration: Melissa Wrench.
Read the full ZA87 story at

The dusty streets of apartheid-era Soweto, 27 July 1987. The politically charged funeral of a young activist who fled South Africa to became a commander in the military wing of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. Police await in armoured cars. The funeral is restricted by specific government decree.

The man being buried is Peter Motau, assassinated in neighbouring Swaziland on the orders of South Africa’s most notorious government-sanctioned killer, Eugene de Kock, orders carried out by his secret police unit in a bloody ambush.

For De Kock and the apartheid government, Peter Motau was a terrorist. For the singing, chanting mourners at his funeral, he was a freedom fighter, a hero from the streets of Soweto itself.

ZA87 is a raw audio document of one extraordinary day under apartheid. A father mourns, himself breaking the regulations declaring any political statements at the funeral illegal. Young activists, the “Comrades”, sing in praise of the banned ANC’s military wing, sirens blare, helicopters hover overhead, a police officer orders all television and photojournalists to leave. Nigel Wrench’s microphone remains. Also there is Winnie Mandela, on behalf of the ANC’s exiled leadership. Banned from speaking at the funeral, she speaks instead into Wrench’s microphone and stages a remarkable intervention as the police seek to detain activists.

The authorities sought to keep the events of that day away from the eyes and ears of anyone who wasn’t there. ZA87 breaks that silence.

Nigel Wrench is an award-winning journalist whose career began in South Africa under apartheid. He is the winner of a Sony Award for “Out This Week”, BBC Radio’s first national lesbian and gay news programme, and a New York Radio Award for BBC Radio 4’s “Aids and Me”, chronicling his experience of living with HIV. “Few journalists have quite so intimately captured the essence of their era’s great moral panics as Nigel Wrench” (The Quietus).

ZA87 is the follow-up to Wrench’s acclaimed first cassette on The Tapeworm, ZA86, “a remarkable documentation of South Africa under apartheid in 1986” (Boomkat), “chilling and at times stunningly beautiful” (The Quietus), “stylistically not dissimilar to Adam Curtis’s 2015 documentary ‘Bitter Lake’, its hypnagogic float through the rushes feels curiously vivid, free of the dating or distancing effect further media packaging might bring” (The Wire).


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