Friday, 4 December 2009

International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa Press Cuttings Archives

Today we want to focus on an important collection held on microfiche – the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa Press Cuttings Archives.

The International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa (IDAF) was an anti-apartheid organization that smuggled £100 million into South Africa for the defence of thousands of political activists, and to provide aid for their families while they were in prison. It paid lawyers to defend political detainees and provided financial support families of political prisoners. It published numerous books and films on repression in South Africa. IDAF, was the brain-child of John Collins, a canon of St Paul's Cathedral. The organisation resulted from Canon Collins's guaranteeing the legal costs and support for the 156 accused under the 1956 Treason Trials, and their families. The organisation continued to support anti-apartheid activists through the Rivonia Trial and numerous other political trials (most of which were not high profile). Defence and Aid became an international organisation in 1965, with branches in Britain, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Holland and India.

On 18 March 1966, the South African Defence and Aid Committee was banned as an 'unlawful organisation' under the Suppression of Communism Act. Lengthy prison sentences were promised for those who handled money on behalf of IDAF and the Terrorism Act made it a capital offence to attempt to bring about social change with the help of a foreign government or institution, even when no violence was involved.

IDAF reacted by creating a system where a network of respectable individual donors funded defences, who in turn received funds from IDAF, and with the assistance of a network of friendly solicitors who corresponded with the South African trial lawyers and transmitted funds to them. IDAF’s welfare programme, aimed at alleviating the hardship of both political prisoners and their dependents, also relied on circumventing a direct connection with IDAF, with the use of hundreds of letter writers sending money directly to recipients through the post.

As well as raising and transmitting funds, IDAF continuing public activities, with research and publicity sections. The work of these sections included monitoring the press, and IDAF built up a large press-cuttings archive. This was microfilmed in 1991 before IDAF transferred its activities to South Africa, and copies lodged in countries affected by apartheid, as well as research libraries in Europe and North America

The Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library was fortunate to be selected by IDAF as the UK depository for microfiche copies of the South Africa and Namibia press cuttings archives. These include some 500,000 press cuttings from the South African, Namibian and British press from 1975 to 1990 and documenting all aspects of apartheid in South Africa, especially resistance and repression. The Namibian materials cover the South African occupation and the apartheid system subsequently imposed on the people of that country. Both archives include materials on cultural, social and economic issues and international relations. The Library holds an index to these, and in addition many of IDAF publications, including its journal Focus.

No comments: