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About this SAHA project

"Tracing the unbreakable thread" is a two-year project the South African History Archive (SAHA) is conducting in 2015 - 2016, drawing on archival materials to prompt inter-generational dialogues about, and educational engagements with the rich history of non-racialism in South Africa.

This project takes as its starting point Julie Frederikse's book, The Unbreakable Thread: Non-racialism in South Africa, and its associated archive lodged at SAHA. Originally published by the pioneering Ravan Press in 1990, the book is based on more than 100 interviews conducted in the late 1980s with liberation struggle veterans, such as Billy Nair, Dorothy Nyembe and Joe Slovo, and a new generation of leaders like Cheryl Carolus, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, and traces the origins, development and resilience of the ideological tradition of non-racialism in South Africa. 

A 25th anniversary commemorative edition has been curated by SAHA in 2015, in consultation with Julie Frederikse. This edition, along with the related interviews transcripts, historical documents and photographs, is accessible through this SAHA online repository, intended to prompt and enable critical consideration of what progress has been made in consolidating South Africa's non-racial democracy, as entrenched in the Constitution, in society today. 

This commemorative edition, along with this online repository, were first showcased to participants at a panel discussion to consider the legacy of non-racialism, hosted by SAHA in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, on 22 September 2015. Panelists were Mr Neeshan Balton (CEO, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation), and Mr Sello Hatang (CEO, Nelson Mandela Foundation). 

Watch a short video report of this event

Read the full speech presented by Obenewa Amponsah at this event

Read the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation's 2012 report entitled "Rethinking non-racialism"

Read the Nelson Mandela Foundation's position paper on race and identity in 2015 South Africa


SAHA is grateful to the following photographers for allowing SAHA to reproduce their images that originally appeared in The Unbreakable Thread in 1990 in this digital repository and in the 25th anniversary commemorative edition: Omar Badsha, Gille de Vlieg, Eric Miller, Cedric Nunn, Paul Weinberg, Stan Winer and Anna Zieminski

SAHA would also like to thank Bill Frankel & Horst Kleinschmidt in their capacity as ex-employees of International Defence Aid Fund for their blessing in reproducing those images credited to IDAF where the individual photographer remains unknown, and to Mariki Victor, UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives, for the provision of reproduction of these images from their IDAF collection.

Items have also been reproduced from the following SAHA collections:

The SAHA Poster collection (AL2446)
The United Democratic Front (UDF) collection (AL2431)
The Original SAHA collection (AL2457)
The Julie Frederikse collection (AL2460)
The SAHA Ephemera collection (AL2540)
The SAHA Original Photograph collection (AL2547)
The Gille de Vlieg collection (AL3274)
The Mafela Trust collection (AL3289)

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has also donated materials relating to their research into non-racialism for inclusion in this online repository. These materials form the basis for a new digital collection at SAHA - The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Collection (AL3300)


Editor and project manager – Catherine Kennedy

Archival support – Debora Matthews, Sameena Khan and Nonhlanhla Ngwenya

Research and production support – Julie Frederikse, Shibu Motimele and Miranda West

Layout – Rizelle Stander Hartmeier

The production of this edition and the related online repository was supported by grants from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies.


Established in 1988 by anti-apartheid activists, SAHA is an independent, non-profit human rights archive committed to documenting, supporting, and promoting greater awareness of historical and, since 1994, contemporary struggles for justice and accountability.

For more information about SAHA's work, please contact:

Tel: +27 11 718 2560

Email: info@saha.org.za

Web: www.saha.org.za

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