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Background

The African national Congress believes that it has a responsibility to all South Africans to preserve a permanent record of its activities which are the foundation of the new South African cultural heritage. The organization also recognizes that the archival record is the bastion of a just society. In a just society, individual rights are not time bound, nor are past injustices irreversible. Thus the archival record will help to secure justice for victims of oppressive government actions. On a larger scale the archives will guarantee the existence of an enlightened and democratic society. And it is given these different circumstances that the organization has committed itself to the retrieval and preservation of its history through the creation of an archive.

In a formal agreement of deposit signed by President Mandela in 1992, it was agreed that the University of Fort Hare will be the official repository of the ANC Archives, thus initiating the ANC Archive Repatriation project which is coordinated and directed from the Luthuli House, the ANC Headquarters in Johannesburg. Why Fort Hare? In terms of its history and setting the University of Fort Hare is closer to the ANC than any other University. Founded in 1916, and situated in Alice, the University is the oldest historically black university in Southern and Eastern Africa. Indeed through its efforts at championing black advancement, it had become the cradle of both the liberation movements and the African intelligentsia. Alumni of the University of Fort Hare include Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Robert Mugable.

Documents of the ANC have been hidden throughout the globe during the exile period. The process of repatriating these documents back into the country began in 1992. Documents have been retrieved from 33 foreign countries. This process of retrieval is an ongoing one. The ANC Archives at the University of Fort Hare have been opened to the public in 1996.

The late President of the ANC, Oliver Tambo said that the "archives will reflect the authentic and real experiences of the past." In effect then the archives stand alone as the signal most complete record of the historic mission of the ANC. Their value cannot be matched in any meaningful way by records in a country that has not been truly mindful of the history of the majority of South Africa's inhabitants.


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