South African History Online (SAHO) is a non-partisan people's history project concerned with the presentation of a critical, open access, and democratic history of South Africa. It was founded by Omar Badsha and registered as a non-profit Section 21 organisation in June 2000 (registration number: 037-117 NPO).
Our organisation was established to address the biased way in which South Africa’s history and heritage, as well as that of Africa more broadly is represented in our educational, cultural and heritage institutions.SAHO’s principal goals are to:
- Both produce and promote new research and popularise history via our website;
- Develop innovative educational programmes;
- Organise conferences and travelling exhibitions;
- Publish books and;
- Through our community projects enable people to tell their own stories about the building of their communities, their struggles for freedom, democracy and the building of non-racialism and a just society.
Please click here to read more about the history of SAHO, and to learn more about our projects click on the icons below.
Our team of content producers, editors, designers and web technicians are based in Woodstock, Cape Town. If you are in the area, feel free to come up to our office and say hello!
SAHO began life in 2001 as a history website and digital archive. Since then it has become the largest history website on the continent with close to 40 000 documents, approximately 7 000 biographies, and an archive containing tens of thousands of letters, statutes, photos, speeches and the like.
Between 2012-2017 the site registered over 50 million pageviews, and in 2016/17 alone, the site was used by four and half million people globally, who viewed over ten million pages.
Since our inception, SAHO has become much more than simply a website. We have also created an exciting Online Classroom for learners and teachers; we have developed a thriving book publishing operation; we have established partnerships with both local and international academic institutions; and we continue to partake in community outreach programmes across the country. As well as this, we have a burgeoning social media presence, and you will find us regularly posting to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, not to mention our popular History Matters blog. Material from the SAHO website is also used daily by the SABC and by many other radio stations, newspapers and websites.
SAHO has a Graduate Development Programme, a skills development intervention that was made possible through a partnership with the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA).
See below for our various internship programmes.
Improving the knowledge of South African history and decolonising the archive are the two guiding principles behind SAHO’s educational activities. All our educational initiatives should be understood within this context.
SAHO’s Online Classroom is a resource designed for learners and teachers alike. It was created for use in concert with the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) Continuous Assessment Programmes (CAPs), and assists learners to thrive whilst following the national history syllabus, no matter which grade they are. To get a sense of what our online classroom looks like, click here. The Online Classroom was developed in partnership with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and consists of the of free downloadable history curriculum material, lesson plans and a range of resources for use in the classroom.
SAHO’s History Classroom is the only free downloadable resource of its kind in the country which provides the entire national history curriculum covering all the topics from Grade 4 to Grade 12.
To make the Online Classroom even more accessible, it is compliant for viewing on smartphones and tablets and by mid 2018 SAHO will also be available as an app, allowing anybody to view material covering the entire national history curriculum from on smartphones and tablets.
Institutional Partnerships and Student Internship project
Over the years, SAHO has built a dynamic partnership with many local and international university history departments which helps generate new research and content for our website. In addition, we run a Student Internship Programme with our institutional partners which is the only one of its kind in the country, where students from our tertiary institutions and colleges receive on the job experience in writing for popular audiences and experiential learning in the use of new technology to popularise history, as well as training in digitisation and the building of online archives. Since 2012 eighty-four students have served an internship of between 6 and 12 months, with forty-three interns assisting the organisation in 2017.
SAHO also hosts a very exciting international student programme which includes students from the Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Principia University in the United States of America. These students work on a theme that their supervisors and SAHO staff identify, which then forms part of their coursework on South African history. Each year over three months, the students hold weekly Skype meetings with SAHO researchers, who help students to find resources and to link up with people that they would like to interview.
In addition, we have a partnership with the Albert Luthuli Museum in Groutville, Stellenbosch, the University of the Free State, the Liberation History Reference Group, and at the beginning of November 2016 we met with the Department of Military Veterans to begin discussing a collaborative oral history project. We have also begun engaging with Iziko National Gallery and UCT’s School of Education to help us compile and publish curriculum material related not only to history but also to the arts, geography, music, and life orientation - and to work on an online training course for history teachers. We are hoping to get this project off the ground before the end of 2020.
Chief Albert Luthuli Young Historians Oral History Project
In 2007 SAHO partnered with the Department of Basic Education to organise the Chief Albert Luthuli Young Historians Oral History Project. This very successful national oral history programme is run by the Department of Basic Education, and the material produced by the students is published and made accessible on our website.
In addition to its broad pedagogical focus, SAHO is committed to developing multi-faceted and integrated community outreach projects. These serve to promote research critical to the understanding of our past; to enable ordinary citizens to tell their own stories about the struggle for freedom and the building of democracy; to reinforce non-racialism; and to use democratic learning to promote a more just and better informed society. Building partnership projects with local history groups is central to SAHO’s goal of building a people-centred history. Our work with local history groups such as Popular Education, Children’s Resource Centre, Claremont History Project, and the Steytlerville Community History Project is ongoing and expanding all the time.
History from below
More and more students, academics and heritage institutions have turned to us to partner with them to grow the resources we have on our website; support the teaching of history; and to make their material universally accessible. In addition, we have become a leader not only in demonstrating the importance of the digitising of the archive but also on how to reconfigure the it so that it can contribute to the development of an authentic people’s history, driven from below.
The SAHO programme to build partnership projects with local history groups is central to its goal of building a people-centred history. We have also continued to research the history of towns and key historic sites in the country and welcome the input of local communities in doing so. We are always on the lookout for people to contribute information and stories to host on our website.
As well as the day to day running of the website, maintainence of the archive, and writing of new material, SAHO is also an active publishing house for literature pertaining to the history of South Africa. We have published and launched 25 books to date, including two in 2017: Sindiso Mfenyana’s Walking with Giants and Omar Badsha’s Seedtime. All SAHO publications are available for purchase through our online shop
Exhibitions, Publications and Conferences
SAHO hosts regular conferences with its university partners and has produced a number of ground breaking exhibitions and publications. For instance, in November 2016 SAHO and our partners: the Wits History Workshop and MISTRA, organised a very successful conference at Wits University titled The Politics of Armed Struggle in Southern Africa.
Earlier in 2016 we held the second Mafika Gwala Annual Lecture with the writer Mandla Langa presenting the keynote address and in 2017, at the same function artist Wally Serote acted as the keynote speaker and awards were presented to learners who excelled in the schools history essay writing competition.
SAHO is also involved in the production and release of the Insurrections Ensemble’s albums and public performances, which are usually held in collaboration with another partner institution. Examples of the Insurrection Ensemble’s music can be found here, while their albums can purchased through the SAHO shop.
strives to represent this in as comprehensive and unbiased way as possible. The website is our flagship project. It is the main medium by which we seek to redress an imbalance in the presentation of South African history that comes from decades of segregation and white minority rule. Our website is vast, with two main components. First, it consists of an extensive open access digital archive of over 40 000 items that includes a plethora of documents ranging from court records and prison diaries to photographs, posters, and much more besides. Material in the archive is being continuously tagged and cross referenced to make it more accessible to users. Each week we upload new documents, journal articles, books, images, and videos so that our archive is continuously expanding.
The second component of the website contains articles, biographies, features, and ‘This Day in History’ entries written by our content producers and expert external contributors. As far as possible we try to make explicit links between this section of the website and archival sources, so that anybody from the casual historian to the university academic can take advantage of documents in the historical record to inform themselves with primary resources without having to travel to the physical archives themselves - something which most people are not readily able to do.
Chief among our current concerns are the following:
- Art and Culture under Apartheid
- Liberation history
- Students movements
- African History Portal
- Biographies project
- History of apartheid
Art and Culture under Apartheid
In 2016 we received funding from the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) for the first phase of the research programme on “Art Under Apartheid.” This has allowed us to get the research off the ground, which began with the weekly publication of new features on art under apartheid. We also organised the second Mafika Gwala Annual Lecture, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and launched three books at this event.
Another of the key components of the SAHO website is its history of the liberation struggle. We have a vast and growing archive of material and we have teamed up with a range of institutions and organisations to build our website into the leading platform of its kind on the African continent. Our aim in the next three years is to continue to add to the features we have and expand the scope to include the history of other liberation organisations and their armed struggle in Southern Africa, as well as the history of the international anti-apartheid movements.
We are also part of the Liberation History Reference Group which is made up of SAHO, the Mapungubwe Institute (MISTRA), Wits History Workshop (WHW), Liliesleaf Museum (LM), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Department of Defence and Military Veterans Association (DODMVA), and at the beginning of November 2016 we met with the Department of Military Veterans to begin discussing a collaborative oral history project.
In 2017 SAHO embarked on a research project to mark the 100 year anniversaries of the life and times of Oliver Tambo and Chief Albert Luthuli. We entered into a partnership agreement with the Luthuli museum to work on compiling and updating their permanent exhibition in Groutville.
The SAHO liberation feature is the biggest project of its kind in the country. It contains a vast archive of documents, photographs, videos and close to 5000 biographies.
Tracking Contemporary Student Movements
Our project on the history of South African student movements is ongoing with new material being uploaded regularly. The demands of the student movements have placed SAHO at the heart of the debate on decolonisation. To this end we have entered into a partnership with a masters and PhD programme on the history of the contemporary student movements headed by Dr Thierry Luescher at the University of Free State, and funded by the Mellon Foundation. This research project is aimed at understanding the history and growth of the contemporary student movement.
African History Portal
In 2013 SAHO began discussing how to build an African history website and educational project. SAHO has completed the first phase of this project by producing short country profiles as well as publishing online books and documents. Our aim is to continue adding content and to start a conversation with African historians and African Studies departments across the world to help us jointly build our history of Africa section.
Since the founding of SAHO, we have made a concerted effort to keep up to date with the major biographies on our website, as well as populating this section with the stories of the many people who made sacrifices for the country during the struggle against racial discrimination. We are especially keen to continue building this aspect of the website under the banner of Lives of Courage. If you have biographical information you would like to submit, please send it to our research team by following the link here.
Geography is implicitly linked to history. As such, we are attempting an ambitious project to provide community centred profiles of all major (and minor) cities and towns in the country. If you are passionate about local history, please feel free to send us any work you have done around your area and our researchers will get in contact with you.
In March 2017 SAHO was honoured to receive the NIHSS award for Digital Humanities. We have set the standard on how to transform the way digital archives are constructed and made accessible and in the next years we will build on the experience we have acquired and make our expertise available to other archives.
Our website and our educational programmes reach out to a vast audience and continue to provide information that helps people to better understand our history and South Africa’s legacy of injustice and inequality, but also the values of collective responsibility, grassroots democracy and social justice.
- Build as comprehensive a history and archive of the liberation struggle and the post-apartheid transition as possible;
- Utilise our content and archive to design, produce and run free online courses for students and educators;
- Provide expertise to our partner institutions to assist with the digitisation, design and management of their archives so that we can build a national archival network. This will help to facilitate research and to advance the reconfiguration of our own archives to meet the needs of our universities to “decolonise” their curricula.
Mawlana Dr Muhammad Ashraf Ebrahim Dockrat (Chairman)
Mawlana Dr Mu?ammad Ashraf Ebrahim Dockrat is a graduate of Madrasah Arabia Islamia, Azaadville, South Africa. He also holds degrees in Semitic languages, Islamic studies and religious studies. Ashraf Dockrat is a teacher at the darul ?ulums at Madrasah Ra?maniyyah, Masjid Darus Salam and the Jami?ah al-?Ulum al-Islamiyyah. He is an associate researcher at the post-graduate School for Languages at the University of Johannesburg. He was appointed by the President to serve as a commissioner with the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.
Dockrat is a founding board member of SA History Online and is also a senior member of the Council of Muslim Theologians (Jamiatul Ulama South Africa est.1923). He has a weekly book review programme on Radio Islam. Dr Dockrat serves on the board of the Pretoria North Muslim Education Institute and the Tshwane Muslim School. His research interests include Qur’anic studies, Arabic lexicography, the study of Muslim thought, community rights and histories. He has a number of accredited publications. His latest book is “Medicine of the Prophet: Tibb al-Nabawi ” (2015).
Professor Ciraj Shahid Rassool
Professor Ciraj Rassool, of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), directs the Department of History’s African Programme in Museum and Heritage Studies, managed in partnership with Robben Island Museum. He is a trustee of the District Six Museum and the South African History Archive. He is also a councillor of Iziko Museums of Cape Town and previously served on the councils of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) and the National Heritage Council.
He has been a member of the Archaeology, Palaeontology, Meteorites, Heritage Objects and Burial Sites Permit Committee of SAHRA, and also serves on its Artworks Advisory Panel. Most recently he was appointed to the Human Remains Repatriation Advisory Committee of the Department of Arts and Culture.
Prof Rassool has written widely on public history, visual history and resistance historiography and has published in the Journal of African History, the Journal of Southern African Studies, Cahiers d’etudes Africaines, African Studies, South African Review of Sociology and Kronos: Southern African Histories.
Along with his colleagues in History and the Faculty of Arts at UWC, Prof Rassool has worked in international partnerships and has collaborated with scholars from Emory University and the University of Minnesota, United States of America (USA) and is also currently involved in the African Heritage Initiative (AHI), along with Fort Hare, the University of Witwatersrand, the University of Ghana and the University of Michigan.
Prof Rassool works with old museums that are changing their colonial legacies and also devotes time to understanding new process-based museologies. Until 2013, he was Chairperson of Iziko Museums of South Africa, which has now removed all body casts from display and is also preparing to return its unethically collected human remains.
Mr Jabulani Sikhakhane has over 20 years’ experience in journalism and communications, with his main focus being on financial and political reporting. He has worked for both the public and private sector, with his most recent role being the Deputy Editor at The Conversation Africa. Prior to that he was Chief Director of Communications at the National Treasury.
He has worked for various publications including Financial Mail, Business Times and as editor of Business Report, as well as being editor in chief of Destiny Man, a men’s magazine focusing on business and lifestyle.
He is currently the Head of Communications and spokesperson of the South African Reserve Bank.
Mr Sikhakhane has received several awards honouring his work in the field. He completed various certificates at Wits Business School, University of Pennsylvania, and GIBS.
Omar Badsha is a South African artist and activist of Indian origin. He dedicated the early part of his career to the arts, especially photography, and in 1982 was instrumental in establishing Afrapix, the now legendary independent photographic agency and collective. The collective played a leading role in shaping the tradition of social documentary photography and in documenting the popular struggles of the 1980s. In 1982 he also became the head of the photography unit of the Second Carnegie Commission on Poverty and Development.
In 1987 Badsha moved from Durban to Cape Town to establish the Centre for Documentary Photography at the University of Cape Town. He became a leading artist and cultural activist in the United Democratic Front (UDF) and was one of the founding members and chairperson of the Cultural Workers Congress, an affiliate of the UDF.
In 1990 Badsha was made head of the ANC’s Western Cape branch, spearheading the formation of FOSACO and participating in the formulation of the ANC’s cultural policies. He worked full-time as a volunteer and head convener of the Mass Democratic Movement. Badsha also served on the political committee of the ANC’s Western Cape election campaign.
After 1994, unlike many activists, Badsha went back to civil society and was active in grassroots work among the youth and cultural workers. He was instrumental in establishing the Ikapa Arts Trust, which organised the annual Cape Town Festival.
In 1997 he moved with his family to Pretoria and in 1999 established South African History Online (SAHO).
Since 1965 Badsha has exhibited widely both at home and abroad. His paintings and photographs can be found in major public collections in South Africa and leading galleries and institutions abroad. Badsha is the recipient of a number of awards for painting and photography. His awards include those of the Sir Basil Schonland Award; Arts South Africa Today 1965; the Sir Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Award; Arts South Africa Today 1969; the Natal Society Of Arts - Annual award 1968; and the Images Of Africa First Prize at the African Arts Festival in Denmark, 1993.
In 2017 Badsha also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch.
Yacoob Abba Omar
Yacoob Abba Omar joined the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) in January 2017. Before that he was Director Operations at Mapungubwe Institute (MISTRA), a Johannesburg-based research institute/think tank. He was appointed on to the Board of South African Tourism in November 2015.
Earlier in his career he served in several capacities in the public sector: South Africa’s Ambassador to Oman from 2003 to 2008, and then to the United Arab Emirates from 2008 to December 2012; Deputy Director-General of Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) from 1998 to 2002. Prior to that he had spent almost 5 years as the General Manager: Corporate Affairs of Armscor. During this period he was appointed onto several public sector structures, including the board of the New Media Institute for South Africa and the South African National AIDS Council. He also headed up the Presidency’s Scenario Project in 2002 and then again in 2007.
Currently Langa is reading for his PhD on ‘Sovereignty and National Identity in South Africa’ through Wits University. He graduated with an M.Phil in South African Political Economy through the Nelson Mandela Metro University and completed the Advanced Executive Programme through the School of Business Leadership of the University of South Africa.
In 1998 Abba was decorated by the Minister of Defence for 15 years of Distinguished Service and in 2008 he was decorated by the Sultan of Oman with the Naumann Award (Class One) for International Relations.
Mandla Langa from KwaMashu Township, Durban, is a poet, short story writer, and novelist. Langa studied at the University of Fort Hare (Eastern Cape), graduating in 1972 with a B.A. degree in English and Philosophy. He taught at a high school in KwaMashu from 1973 until 1974.
In 1974, he became actively involved as a director of the South African Students' Organization (SASO), maintaining this position until his arrest in 1976 for attempting to leave the country without a permit. As a result he served 101 days in jail.
While imprisoned, Langa continued to improve his writing skills. After serving his sentence, he fled to Botswana in 1976, marking the start of his life in exile. He also spent time in Lesotho, where he underwent training at the African National Congress’s (ANC) uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) military camps. In addition to Lesotho, Langa spent time in Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, Hungary and the United Kingdom (UK). He held various ANC posts abroad, and served as the organisation’s cultural attaché in the UK and Western Europe.
Among Langa’s early published work are poems such as Pension Jives and They No Longer Speak to Us in Song. In addition to writing poetry, he began writing prose. His story The Dead Men Who Lost Their Bones was his first to be published in Drum Magazine in 1980, winning a prize. Langa's success prompted his literary evolution to novel writing. In 1991, he became the first South African to be awarded an Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary for Creative Writing. Langa's diverse work includes penning an opera, Milestones, with music composed by renowned South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela. In 1999, Milestones was featured at the Standard Bank Festival in Grahamstown.
His published books are Tenderness of Blood (1987), A Rainbow on a Paper Sky (1989), The Naked Song and Other Stories (1997), The Memory of Stones (2000), and The Lost Colours of the Chameleon (2008), which won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Best Book in Africa). Langa appeared at the 2011 Paris Book Fair and also participated in the Bush Theatre's 2011 project Sixty-Six Books with a piece based upon a book on the King James Bible.