An investigation into the management of the records and archives of former liberation movements in east and southern Africa held by national and private archival institutions.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The struggle to liberate the continent of Africa from colonialism during the second half of the twentieth century represented an important epoch and as such this history needs to be documented accurately in whatever form for the benefit of posterity. Liberation struggle archives are of differing types and status, which reflects the diverse nature of the struggle itself. R ecords on the liberat ion struggles in Africa were created from within and outside Africa to document this historic ep och from the 1950s to the 1990s. These records have to be made available to the public for research, scholarship and general interest as they are a treasured na tional asset. In view of the above, it is the mandate of archivists to provide a means f or future generations to access historical sources . The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether liberat ion struggle archives are being offered the continuum of c are throughout their lifecycle in order to make such access possible . Considering that few records were created during the struggle for emancipation notwithstanding their neglect, it is therefore incumbent upon archivists to pres erve the legacy of the libe ration struggle that is contained in those few records that were created. The study used both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods. The study used methodological triangulation techniques in order to capture the phenomenon under study in detail. The study’s’ population were the twenty three archival institutions within east and southern Africa, both public and private that is, which generated a response rate of 39%. Due to the fact that the study population was geographically di spersed, the study employed self - administered questionnaires for data gathering . U nstructured interviews and observations were also used in a limited manner . The researcher administ ered an interview schedule to h e a ds of archival institutions within the eas t and s outhern African region. To complement the iii interviewing, an observation schedule was also used to record phenomena at selected archival institutions. T he data collected using qualitative techniques was content analyzed whilst SPSS was used for quanti tative data. The study unearthed some interesting developments. Liberation struggle archives had been identified and the requisite documentation put in place. T h is was evidenced by the restitution of archives which was an ongoing process albeit a problemat ic one. This process gives the overall picture that the liberation struggle was a global event as records are scattered in different parts of the world. The records so created are of varied nature as the media used to capture the record exists in a variety of forms with photographs predominant. The study also discovered that the arrangement of records was being done by qualified personnel, both archivists and manuscript librarians. In their efforts to promote access, most archival institutions employed a co mbination of finding aids with inventories and summary lists mostly used . Furthermore, t he existence of mechanisms, policies and procedures facilitates archival management practices. The present research established that all archival institutions had missi on statements and that th ese explicitly spelt out the mandate of the organizations . F or some institutions, these existed in written format. Formal p olices were generally in existence but were calibrated at various levels depending on an institution’s colle ction priorities. In this instance, the policy pertaining to digitization of liberation struggle archives was held in high regard and this explains why the majority of archival institutions preferred electronic media for duplicate copies . This preference p oints to the increasingly pervasive influence of digital technology. Archival institutions were liberal in their publication requirements though users had to acknowledge the institution as the source. The major challenge in the management of liberation str uggle records was the processing of backlog s . In addition, the study sought to establish whether archival institutions were providing resources in order to promote a n environment conducive to iv prolong ing the useable life of liberation struggle archives. The infrastructure in terms of knowledgeable and skilled personnel was in existence as the need for an academic background from which archival skills could be developed was given priority. The expertise in preservation management was mostly invested i n disast er planning and recovery, holdings maintenance and preservation planning . The research also established that the majority of archival institutions had a visitors ’ register in place al though its administration lacked consistency. The majority of archival in stitutions had air conditioning though maintenance records were non - existent. It was also noted that fumigation was prevalent and that restorative work was being done by the majority of institutions with the traditional technique s being the most popular. Equally important was the need to establish the preservation needs of the surveyed archival institutions. The study reve ale d that digitization was the most wid ely used preservation strategy and the majority of archival institutions had purpose - built storag e. Fire was considered the biggest threat to archival collections and the disaster plan mostly covered records, the physical building and the evacuation of people. Fire detection systems were in place and archival institutions were making use of their resp ective local fire departments to raise fire precautionary awareness and readiness. Security measures were generally in place though the use of Close Circuit Television ( CCTV ) , cameras and alarm systems was not pronounced. Furthermore, the study identified that information communication technologies had a transformative influence on the management of liberation struggle archives. The majority of the institutions were digitizing their collections though there was no written policy for managing these digital records. It was also established that most archival institutions were not migrating their records. Technological obsolescence and lack of resources were considered by most institutions as constituting the major threats to the survival of digital records an d this could be the reason why donor assistance v was sought as evidenced by the state of the art equipment on digitization infrastructure observed in some institutions visited . Equally significant was the revelation that inherent semantic ambiguities existe d in the legislative apparatus of the majority of archival institutions which partly explains why there was much passivity when it came to managing private records. The study further established that the management of private records was not satisfactory a nd areas noted for concern pertained to the arrangement, storage and custody, finding aids and access relating to these records . Finally, the study put forward a number of recommendations that had to be considered in an attempt to help archival institutio ns professionally manage liberation struggle archives , and two are cited here simply because they encapsulat e others . Firstly, the legislative apparatus had to be modernized in order for liberation struggle archives to be taken care of at national and not organizational level as is presently the case. The implication is that the laws that govern the national archives of countries within ESARBICA are wholly inadequate when it comes to the management of the private record. Lastly, the records continuum model formed the theoretical foundation of the study not only because of its holist ic approach, pragmatism and the fact that it is technologically driven but because it dovetailed with the records keeping issues which the study investigated .


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2010.


Public records--Africa, Southern--Management., Public records--Africa, East--Management., Archives--Africa, Southern--Management., Archives--Africa, East--Management., Archives--Political aspects., Records--Management--Case studies., Theses--Library and information science.