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South African National Defence Force Archive (SANDFA)

Page history last edited by jmm97@cam.ac.uk 12 years, 4 months ago Saved with comment

South African National Defence Force Archive (SANDFA)

Date of tip: 18 April 2011

Source: Jamie Miller jmm97@cam.ac.uk


The procedures for accessing SANDFA documents are unusual. First, one must trawl through the various catalogues of documents, a process which will take several days. As with the other South African archives described here, there is no online catalogue allowing the researcher to identify the desired records prior to the visit. Researchers will do well to acquaint themselves with the structure of the South African military in relation to their subject matter, as records are grouped according to their office of origin (for instance, Head of the Navy, or Military Intelligence). The title of the record, coupled with the date, gives the only indication of relevance. However, as all experienced researchers know, often it is the files with the juiciest titles which prove the most disappointing, while gems turn up in nondescript documents perused over in an almost hypnotic state of over-tiredness. The solution is to look at as many files as possible.


The SANDFA files from the post-1969 era (an arbitrary year set by legislative fiat) all need to be declassified individually prior to consultation, at a cost to the researcher of R15 per hour. Thus of the files identified as being possibly of use (some 900 in my case), the option of simply ordering a mass of files and quickly flicking through them to ascertain their actual usefulness is tempered by the fact that you might have to spend a small fortune (and many months) declassifying them. And, of course, there remains the possibility that key documents will remain redacted or even suppressed even after you’ve paid to have them reviewed (although, based on my experience, documents are only very rarely withheld). This might be viewed as a normal and rational procedure in other countries: defence records are often among the most sensitive. But given that the new South Africa explicitly seeks to distance itself from the conduct of the apartheid era armed forces, eschewing all claim to continuity with the previous regime, any claims of sensitivity on the grounds of national security, protecting individual policymakers, or damaging current relations with states wronged in the past – all common excuses in other states - seem essentially baseless. Nevertheless, that is the way it is.


The SANDFA are located at 20 Visagie Street, at least fifteen minutes walk from central Pretoria (the location, incidentally, features prominently in Robert Ludlum's The Fourth Protocol). There are no readily available food outlets nearby, but there are staff facilities within the archive including a microwave and a fridge that may be used upon request. There is secure parking within the archive. The staff are superbly helpful and pleasant.


Contact Person: Lt Col Erika Strydom or Steve d’Agrela

Email: sandfdoc@mweb.co.za

Address: Visagie St, Pretoria


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