I am delighted to be part of this august occasion of the 2016 National Archives Awareness Week under the theme “Archives for the protection of human rights, transparency and good governance”.
This year’s Awareness Week coincides with the 20thcommemoration of the supreme law of the Republic, the Constitution.
The theme for the Week finds resonance in the Constitution as it guarantees amongst others access to information and human rights on the Bill of Rights.
This year also marks 40 years since the landmark June 16 student uprising in Soweto.
The 2016 Archives Awareness Week forms part of the 2nd annual Africa Month celebrations under the theme, “Building a Better Africa and a Better World”.
The month of May has been dedicated as Africa Month to celebrate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963, which is now called African Union (AU).
The Africa Month celebration is a festival of ideas and cultural exchanges which was inaugurated last year with the aim amongst others to entrench our African identity.
This morning I visited Kamagugu Inclusive School here in Nelspruit to further instil and entrench our African identity in our learners through hoisting of the national flag, promotion of the correct etiquette of singing the National Anthem and African Union Anthem as well as the promotion of constitutional values through recitation of the Preamble of the Constitution in different languages.
We also distributed CD Toolkit on how to sing the National and African Union anthems, posters, handheld flags and the National Identity booklet – Passport of Patriotism.
A decision was taken by the International Council on Archives’ (ICA) conference that countries should celebrate Archives Week Annually in their respective countries.
The aim of the Archives Awareness Week is to popularise the profession and to engage communities around the importance of archives in the preservation of societal memory. The week also seeks to promote the importance of good record keeping practices as well as to allow public access to archival buildings for them to witness archival functions and services.
In the South African case, archives have been deliberately kept in obscurity as the result of the machinations of the previous dispensation. The collection policies were lopsided and did not reflect the proper demographic makeup of the country.
Lest we forget South Africans experienced numerous human rights abuses and violations during the apartheid era.
The White-dominated undemocratic government, committed serious atrocities against the Black majority and a number of brutal measures were adopted by the regime to deal with political activists and other offenders.
These atrocities include the Sharpeville protests of 1960, the Soweto students uprising of 1976 and many others. The National Archives and Records Services of South Africa have documented records of these aforementioned ruthless reactionary activities by the government of the day and the resistance activities by our people.
Records of these activities and many more which aimed at pulling down the strongholds of Apartheid can be accessed at the National Archives of South Africa, and in some provincial archives.
The National Archives has a massive responsibility to preserve these records and many more for posterity, irrespective of their content, with the hope that such atrocities may never be repeated in the history of South Africa.
May I remind all of you present that such records are the voices of the people, if they are properly and relevantly used, they can play a significant role in the protection of Human Rights, transparency and good governance.
Mpumalanga as a province has a lot of history that needs to be made available to our youth. The Bethal Potato boycott is one of such historical protests which we need to document and access oral testimonies/histories from those who took part in it.
There are so many histories that are not recorded which will assist us in filling the gaps in our archival collections. I know some schools in Mpumalanga encourage learners to conduct oral history. I want to challenge learners to look at this protest as one of the oral history projects that they can undertake.
At the end we want to see this beautiful building filled with historical, significant collections that will give us a full picture about this province.
In closing, I want to encourage you to visit our Archives, consult our records, interact with our archivists and come up with wonderful educational books that will leave our youth with an understanding of our past for the betterment of their future.
We have 10 Archival repositories in this country, they should not be seen as elitist institutions, they are for all of us.
This awareness week will involve amongst others, presentation on archival functions and services; touring of the Mpumalanga Archives Building; viewing of the Exhibition; film screening; information on archival career, panel discussion on records management; panel discussion of preservation and collection of archival material.
Please enjoy what this year’s Archives Awareness Week has to offer. I now declare the 2016 National Archives Awareness Week officially open.
I thank you
Enquiries: Peter Mbelengwa 082 611 8197