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First batch of records transferred to the Northern Cape Khotso Flatela Archives Repository
It was, as Ms E Manong, the Northern Cape Provincial Archivist told the crowd gathered in the Repository, a historic occasion. Until 1994 South Africa was served by a single national archives service. The 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, designating archives other than national archives as an area of exclusive provincial legislative competence, changed this; requiring each of the nine provinces to establish their own archives and records services. Some provinces, like the Western Cape and the Free State ‘inherited’ infrastructure including repositories and skilled staff from the previous regime. Others, like the Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West did not; they had to start from scratch. The development of the archives and records service in the Northern Cape has been a long struggle, but is beginning to bear fruit. The Northern Cape Provincial Archives Act was passed in 2013 and the newly constructed Archives Repository was opened in 2014. Although funding and capacity remain in short supply, the Repository is ready to receive records!
Mr V Ndima, Deputy Director-General: Heritage Promotion in the national Department of Arts and Culture was unable to attend the even, but delegated Advocate D Maake, Director of the National Film, Video and Sound Archives to deliver a message of support on his behalf. In his address Advocate Maake pointed out that there were three reasons to celebrate: Firstly, that the Northern Cape now had an Archives Repository in which the records could be safely preserved for future generations; secondly, that the province would be able to utilise Policy on Repatriation of Archival Records to repatriate records pertaining to the Northern Cape currently held in the repositories of other provinces; and thirdly, that we were gathered together to witness the handover of records generated during the first twenty years of South Africa’s democracy by the Northern Cape Legislature and the Francis Baard Municipality.
Advocate Maake explained that, under the previous regime archives and records pertaining to the area now known as the Northern Cape were housed in the National Archives and Records Service repository in Pretoria and in the Western Cape Archives repository in Cape Town, together with other records of colonial and apartheid governments. The newly adopted Policy on Repatriation of Archival Records will make it possible for these records to be returned in some form or another, either in their original form or in a digital format. This. No doubt will be another occasion for celebration!
In her message of support, Ms G Parker of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, stressed the importance of records, not only for history, but for accountable government too, telling the audience that the records of the Legislature would confirm that the government had delivered services to the people. This theme was echoed in the address delivered by Ms M Bogatsu Municipal Manager, Francis Baard District Municipality, reinforcing the significance of records in the present and for the future and in that of the MEC L J Mothaping. A second thread that ran through all the addresses was that the preservation of archives and records is important, not only for corporate and for historical memory, but to give substance to the right of access to information enshrined in the Constitution.
While it was good to feel that the significance of archives and records is understood and appreciated in the Northern Cape, I was touched by the MEC’s praise for the committed and passionate archivists, Ms E Manong and her predecessor Ms A Luxton. They have worked with great determination and dedication, and under often difficult circumstances, to ensure that the Northern Cape delivered on its Constitutional mandate to provide archives and records management services.
The formal proceedings concluded with the handover of suitable wrapped and beribboned archival storage boxes, to the loud applause of the audience!
For me though, the most memorable, and touching, part of the morning was an impromptu performance by Ms Manong. Explaining that this was a celebration and that people of the provinces celebrated in song, Ms Manong led the audience in a song of gratitude. Before long the entire audience was on its feet singing and dancing joyfully along with Ms Manong. It was an exhilarating experience. Stepping into the hot dusty grounds of the Repository I paused for a moment, wondering where else in the country the transfer of records would receive such a rousing welcome!