by Miles Borowsky

Touch-Tone TelephoneThis podcast explains the story and history behind Operation Vula: a communications system between underground anti-apartheid activists in South Africa and their exiled leaders in London and Zambia. They used telephone dial-tones and an electronic one-time pad encryption software to send messages via payphone between London and South Africa. The success of this project was vital to the downfall of apartheid; it allowed for almost real-time communications while previously, they had been forced to use cumbersome and lengthy methods of communication.   

Works Cited 

Garrett, R. K., & Edwards, P. N. (2007). Revolutionary Secrets: Technology’s Role in the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement. Social Science Computer Review, 25(1), 13–26.   

Schneier, B. (2013, December 26). Operation Vula. Retrieved October 21, 2019, from  

Jenkin, T. (n.d.). Tim Jenkin: Talking with Vula. Retrieved October 21, 2019, from 

Vermeulen, J. (2015, July 12). How the ANC sent encrypted messages in the fight against apartheid. Retrieved October 21, 2019, from  

Toupin, S. (2017, May 9). Hacking Apartheid – Cryptography Tools for Activists. Retrieved October 21, 2019, from 

Audio Sources 

Retrieved from 

  • Piano Melody 2 
  • Incidental Music 

Retrieved from 

  • Creative Minds 
  • Sad Day 

Retrieved from 

  • The Circles of Life 

More information about Operation Vula…


Image: “Touch-tone telephone,” snowmentality, Flickr (CC BY-SA)