South African History Online (SAHO) is a non-partisan people's history project founded in June 2000. SAHO is a registered Section 21 non-profit organisation.
The organisation was founded to address biases in the representation of South Africa’s history and heritage, as well as that of Africa, our educational, cultural and heritage institutions.
SAHO’s flagship programme is the building of a comprehensive popular history website, www.sahistory.org.za, that serves to promote history and to strengthen the teaching and learning of history. The website also serves as a platform for people to tell their own stories.
SAHO is committed to promoting democracy, non-racialism and the building of just societies.
SAHO is committed to ensuring that knowledge is freely accessible, and contributes to a critical engagement with our past.
In April 2018 the State President presented the CEO Omar Badsha the National Order of Ikhamanga, citing “for his commitment to the preservation of our country’s history through ground-breaking and well-balanced research and collection of profiles and events of the struggle for liberation.”
South African and African History Website
Since its formation in 2000, South African History Online (SAHO) has grown into the largest public history, educational and heritage project in South Africa. SAHO’s flagship project is its website, which comprises a vast archive and repository of articles and educational resources that is added to weekly. The articles on the website are well-referenced and widely acknowledged for their accuracy. Articles on the website are linked to a growing archive of documents, journal articles, online books, photographs, videos and audio clips.
The content on the website is written by a small team of dedicated researchers, supported by interns and academics from local and international partner universities. Additional contributions are made by student interns, interested individuals, community based history groups and heritage institutions.
The SAHO website has become a leading source of information on South African history and is used by teachers, students, and academics and is frequently cited in academic and journal articles. SAHO is a pioneer in the use of Internet technology to reconfigure the colonial and apartheid archive and making it accessible by linking features on our website to relevant archival documents, journal articles, images, and videos.
SAHO’s archive has nearly 28,000 documents and books, over 3,300 articles and approximately 6,000 biographies which makes us the largest biography project in South Africa.
Approximately six million people visited the site in 2018 and viewed more than twelve million pages. Since 2010 we have experienced a 35% average annual growth in visitor numbers. Visitors to our site have viewed more than 60 million pages in the same period. SAHO’s social media platforms, on average, reach just over 100,000 people a month and on days commemorating significant events, such as Youth Day, up to 400,000 people visit or share our material. Material from our website is used daily by South African radio and TV stations and by news and history sites around the world.
One of SAHO’s major objectives is the promotion of a history that recognises the importance of representing the lives of individuals and communities and their roles in the making of South Africa. Our research projects include the “Lives of Courage” project, which collects biographies and memoirs of people who participated in the struggle against apartheid. We also run oral history initiatives which empower individuals and communities to tell their own stories and maintain their own history websites.
Our research on the histories of towns and rural communities is an important component of our project to assist communities in helping us to compile a history from below.
The SAHO website is underpinned by an innovative, multi-pronged history education programme. The material on the website is used extensively by learners, teachers, and by most history and education departments in the country. It is recognised as an accurate and reliable source of information and is regularly cited in tertiary education dissertations and journal articles.
SAHO’s School Education Programme revolves around the online History Classroom project, supplemented by a number of other programmes aimed at strengthening the teaching and learning of history.
The History Classroom programme was developed in partnership with the Department of Basic Education (DBE). SAHO has produced freely-available, downloadable history curriculum materials, covering from Grade 4 to Grade 12, plus lesson plans and a range of other resources.
Our aim is to produce in the next three years curriculum material and related resources covering other learning areas, such as arts and culture, geography, etc. SAHO has also produced publications and exhibitions for the Department of Basic Education and other resources for use in schools.
In addition to the history classroom, SAHO initiated the Chief Albert Luthuli Young Historians Oral History project in partnership with the Department Basic Education. This project encourages high school students to in undertake interviews with people in their community who played a role in fighting for freedom and democracy and in making a difference in their communities.
Higher Education Partnership and Student Internship Programme
Unlike Wikipedia and other history sites SAHO’s strategic objective is to build partnerships with tertiary and heritage institutions to play a leading role in the rewriting of history and to ensure the integrity of our content. These partnerships allow our research and other programmes to draw on the research generated by these institutions and draw on their research capacity to manage big data. SAHO has over the years jointly undertaken research, publications and exhibition programmes with both local and international universities.
Since 2012 SAHO has taken on over one hundred PhD, masters and undergraduate students as part of our student internship programmes. SAHO’s interns include students of web design and information technology (IT). In addition to our internship programmes, SAHO runs unique research and student exchange programmes with three American universities; Principia College, Southern Methodist University, University of York. We aim to develop partnership and student exchange programmes with other countries in Africa so that we can together work towards building a truly Africa-wide History Project.
Publications, Exhibitions and Conferences
SAHO runs a small publishing press, which includes a programme to publish the memoirs of anti-apartheid activists as part of our “Lives of Courage” publication series. We have also curated joint exhibitions and conferences with our partner institutions.
Mafika Gwala Annual Lecture
In 2016 SAHO launched the annual Mafika Gwala Lecture in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the National Institute of Humanities and Social Science (NIHSS). Since 2017, as part of the annual lecture programme, we began a schools essay writing competition with 14 schools in Mafika Gwala’s hometown, Hammarsdale township outside Durban.
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.
Ms. Xolelwa Kashe- Katiya
Xolelwa Kashe-Katiya studied towards a BSc degree at the University of Cape Town and majored in Archaeology. After graduating, she went on to complete an Honours degree in Physical Anthropology at the University of Pretoria. In 2010, she was awarded a fellowship with the Archive & Public Culture research initiative to complete an MPhil in Heritage and Public Culture with the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town.
Her research interests involved the use of archival material to engage with knowledge production, specifically with regard to the human remains and artefacts of Mapungubwe, a world heritage site in Limpopo. She has, in the past seventeen years, worked as a researcher and project officer/manager in donor-funded, public and academic environments. During this time, her duties have ranged from conducting research, monitoring and evaluation of projects to overseeing the quality assurance of training and research projects. She has also worked at the Archival Platform, where she assisted by providing intellectual, political, and professional direction.
She joined the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) in 2013 as Head of Consultancy Services and is currently the Director of Project Management, where she is responsible for the implementation and monitoring of all MISTRA research projects.