South Africa: A People's Guide to Archives and Democracy


Archives are important for democracy and memory. Yet, the lack of public information about archives in South Africa as well as the complicated processes and the challenges around accessing these records discourage many from finding relevant information held in state archives. A 2019 publication aims to make it easier.

Political developments in South Africa over the past two decades have increasingly shaped a landscape of poor accountability, ineffective services and neglect, coupled with elements of secrecy and cover-ups at all levels of government.

This trend has also affected one of the basic and crucial functions of the state, which is record-keeping. Responsible record-keeping does not only affect the ways in which work is carried out efficiently by government departments and state-owned entities. It is also crucial on two other levels: administrative justice and transitional justice.

At the heart of both lies the constitutional right of access to information.

This article focuses on transitional justice and the importance of keeping archives for history, memory, establishing the truth about our past and ultimately for reconciliation.

Unfortunately, South Africa's National Archives lack basic crucial skills, capacities and space to adhere to their record-keeping and oversight functions. At the same time, provincial...

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