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The Archival Platform is NOT calling for the privatisation of archives
It has come to our attention that the Archival Platform is reported to be calling for the privatisation of the network of national and provincial archives and records management services that constitute the national archival system. This is most certainly not the case.
National and provincial legislation mandates archives and records management services to manage, preserve and make accessible the records of government as well as non-public records of enduring national significance. This is a mandate we respect and support. Our position on this is evident in the conclusions that we drew in our recent report,
State of the Archives: an analysis of South Africa’s national archival system and in the presentation on this report which we were called on to deliver to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture on 1 September 2015. It was also made clear in the National and Provincial Dialogue Forums we convened with stakeholders across the country between March and August 2015 to bringing diverse stakeholders together to discuss common interests and shared concerns.
As concerned and active citizens we do the work we do with the intention of making a positive contribution to the growth and development of a national archival system that reflects the values embodied in our democratic constitution, embraces our diverse pasts and arms us to address the challenges we face in the present as we strive for a more just and equitable future.
The use of commercial off-site records storage facilities, especially when repositories are full or not yet functional, is common practice in governmental bodies. The use of such facilities is carefully regulated: the National Archives issued an Advisory Pamphlet Commercial off-site records storage facilities and the law: What governmental bodies need to know in 2007 and a checklist for the assessment of such facilities is included in the National Archives Records Management Policy Manual of the same year. Many other organisations and institutions including the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the South African History Archive (SAHA) make use of commercial off-site storage facilities to safeguard records.
The matter was discussed in a recent Archival Platform National Dialogue Forum where the question of whether archives might consider making use of commercial off-site records storage facilities, especially when repositories were full or not yet functional, as is the case in many parts of the country was raised. We are concerned that this may have been misconstrued as a discussion concerning privatisation. This statement serves to clarify that it most definitely was not a call by the Archival Platform for the the privatization of any aspect of the national archival system
The Archival Platform has not, and would not endorse a call for the privatisation of public archives under any circumstances. The management and care of public records is the responsibility of the state. It is the state’s duty to ensure that records are held in safekeeping for the use of present and future generations. This is a mandate to which we lend our full support.
We would be grateful for any further erroneous claims to be brought directly to our attention so that we can ensure that the people responsible are correctly briefed on our position.
Issued by Jo-Anne Duggan (Director) on behalf of the Archival Platform Steering Committee: Mbongiseni Buthelezi; Carolyn Hamilton; Verne Harris; Sello Hatang; Njabulo Ndebele and Noel Solani