31 October 2013

Dulcie September files released to SAHA

Dulcie September, from SAHA's Poster Collection AL2446The much anticipated documents that shed light on the life of Dulcie Evon September, a renowned anti-apartheid activist, has finally been released to SAHA. Given that SAHA, and other bodies alike, have previously made many thwarted attempts to obtain records on September, the acquisition of these files is a considerable breakthrough.

SAHA's efforts to make these files public, date back as far as 2002, and were regenerated in 2009. At that time, requests were submitted to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the South African Police Service. The most recent request and release was made by the National Archives. The released documents are now archived in The Freedom of Information Collection AL2878.


September's commitment to the struggle for national liberation meant that apartheid authorities were keen to curtail her political activities. Accordingly, she was sentenced to five years in prison and, upon her release in 1969, she received a banning order to restrict her movements. However, September continued her mission overseas and left South Africa in 1973. She joined anti-apartheid movements in London and came to be appointed as chief representative of the African National Congress in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg. In this influential position, September was assassinated in Paris, on 29 March 1988, by professional killers. Her murder remains unsolved and has been subject to much speculation.

The Collection

The documents at SAHA reveals details about September's life in South Africa before she immigrated to Europe. It includes correspondence of the South African Police Service and the Department of Justice concerning the restrictions placed on September and her permission requests for visitors, transfers and change of address. Other records consist of a number of notices served on September in terms of the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950 and there is also documentation regarding September's departure permit to permanently leave South Africa. 

Collectively, this information brings meaning to the research of those investigating the life and death of September by providing context and a record of events in her life. More specifically, it gives a valuable insight into September's fight against apartheid before she immigrated to the UK. Furthermore these documents serve as evidence of ideas, decisions and communications in the apartheid government's operations in dealing with opposition.

Although the eventual release of this information was clearly in the public's interest and in no way harmful to September or any third party, many files on September remain closed and hidden. SAHA believes that, twenty-five years since September's death, it is time to bring transparency to this case and calls for the release of other documents relating to September so that the public can have a better understanding of what happened. SAHA has since submitted requests for this information to the Department of Justice and South African Police Service and is eagerly awaiting their response. 

View the Dulcie September file in collection AL2878 The Freedom of Information Programme Collection
View the request submitted to South African Police Service
View the request submitted to Department of Justice and Constituional Development 

Read about how you may consult records in the SAHA archives