Zim repatriates colonial documents from SA Minister Mohadi

ZIMBABWE has repatriated some important Cabinet documents of the settler regime that had been taken to South African institutions before the country gained its independence, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said yesterday.

He made the remarks when he officially opened the East and Southern Africa Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (ESARBICA) general conference in Victoria Falls yesterday.

Minister Mohadi said he raised the issue of the repatriation of the Cabinet documents during an African Archives Agenda session at the Citra conference in South Africa in 2003.

“Buoyed by the zeal and co-operative and progressive spirit that underpinned the 2003 African Archives Agenda, I immediately raised issues of repatriation of archives with my South African colleague,” said Minister Mohadi.

“I am glad to advise that in 2013, Zimbabwe managed to complete the repatriation of some of its exiled records from South African institutions including Rhodes University. This success would not have been possible without a commonly shared archives agenda between the National Archives of South Africa and Zimbabwe.”

Speaking to the media after the official opening, Minister Mohadi elaborated that the said documents were actually Cabinet files that the Smith regime had taken to South African institutions after it became imminent that independence was inevitable.

“When we gained Independence in 1980, the Smith government had given away or sold some information that they did not want to be released while they were still alive.

“These are Cabinet records that Smith said would only be released after his death. But we negotiated with South African authorities to have the information sent back to us and we now have it in our national archives,” Minister Mohadi said.

The major talking point during the official opening ceremony was the need for African archivists and record managers to transform their record keeping methods from the analogue system to digital.

ESARBICA president who is also director of the Kenyan National Archives, Mr Francis Mwangi, said there was need for archivists and record managers to ensure they equip themselves with modern day technologies.

“The challenge now is how to preserve the cloud that has now become our repository to ensure that the information that has been established in the cloud is credible and retrievable when needed,” he said.

“So many things are changing, so it’s important to keep pace and continue to learn by attending such conferences and workshops.”

Zambian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mrs Ndiyoi Mutiti said there was need for national archives to justify their existence by being innovative.

“You must have systems that are user-friendly because there is a general perception that archives contain very old historical information.

“Yet the information you have can help Governments to make good decisions and governance. We are in the electronic age so we have ICTs that have made information easy and fast to access.

“You must always be learning new techniques to remain relevant in this ICT age because if you don’t embrace change, you will remain behind and become irrelevant,” said Ambassador Mutiti, who is former director of the Zambian National Archives.

National Archives of Zimbabwe director and ESARBICA vice president Mr Ivan Murambiwa said his organisation was already in the process of computerising its systems.

He said a number of mechanisms were being put in place to leverage the opportunities that lie with knowledge and information.

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