About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.


To collect, assimilate, organize and disseminate the hundreds of hours of interviews and research materials that are the foundation of this collection requires the collaboration of many individuals who collectively dedicated thousands of hours to this, I hope, historic enterprise.

The men and women who were key players in South Africa's democratic transition gave unselfishly of their time, many for years on end, during times that were often tumultuous but never dull. Their constant refrain was "are you still at it?" And unfortunately for them my answer was, "Yes, I'm still at it."

Without the foundations that provided critical funding support in the later years for research and editing, this web site would never have seen the light of day. My "thank yous" are in no particular order & as is invariably the case, I am bound to miss someone who, since 1989 and onwards, has contributed something that I have overlooked. My apologies.

The foundations and individuals are: the Open Society Institute - George Soros and Frederik van Zyl Slabbert who brought me to the attention of OSI; the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation – William White, Christa Kuljian and Russell Ally; and Atlantic Philanthropies - Gerard Krack. And to Dr. Marcy Murninghan a special recognition for bringing me to the attention of the Mott Foundation, an introduction that facilitated a change in my fortunes! Marcy is an ardent and selfless supporter of my work over the years, and for her deep friendship and support I am grateful.

For almost eleven years Judy Drew has scheduled interviews, rescheduled interviews, pleaded for interviews and I dare say cried if necessary and transcribed hundreds of hours of the taped interviews, many conducted under near inaudible conditions. And having transcribed the tapes, she then, years later, weighed through them again to edit and make sense of what you will read. Judy's diligence is only exceeded by her dedication.

Leanne Smith was researcher par excellence. She would follow every lead, disappear for days into the basements of libraries, come up with documents from the most unlikely sources, provided valuable insights and advice and was a sounding board for ideas. But most important, Leanne is a friend, always there, always reliable. Always making my life easier and tidier.

And then there are others who did the real work, behind-the-scenes … scheduling, transcribing, researching, editing, driving, filing, formatting, digitizing, scanning, arranging travel and much more. From 1988 to 2004, many individuals energetically contributed their skill, time and intellect. They were motivated by their personal enthusiasm for the importance of this information to future generations who could draw lessons from the South Africa experience in the transition from apartheid to democracy.

The following is a short list of those who participated. The recognition of these people represents many others who performed like tasks: Andre Titus, Chris Tapscott, Denise Battersby, Faisal Sultan, Henry Tshabalala, Kate Doerr, Leanne Smith, Mandla Khanyile, Matt Vasconcellos, Nomsa Ngakane, Rob Black, Roger Groom, Rynette Meiring, and Zweli Tshabalala.

My deepest gratitude to the University of Massachusetts Boston and to two former Chancellors – Chancellors Penny and Gora, and the current Chancellor Motley, for their understanding of the significance of this undertaking and the role of a university such as ours, certainly one of the most ethnically diverse in the United States with its special commitment to women with children, seniors, the physically disabled and veterans of the Vietnam war, in bringing the experiences of other cultures in conflict to the mission of an urban university.

And within the university my gratitude to my colleagues at the once John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs and the now John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, erstwhile Directors Bob Woodbury and Ray Torto, erstwhile Director and now Dean Ed Beard, a companion of encouragement for over 20 years who always pushed me to achieve what I set out to do. The measure of a good scholar, he says, lies in his being able to take the measure if his own abilities.

Margery O'Donnell was an intimate part of the Irish/South Africa connection and lives in the experiences I have travelled throughout this journey.

And to Candyce, Jamie, Mile, Sandy Blanchette and Pat Peterson and the other stalwarts of the McCormack's 10th floor, my thanks for providing support willingly whenever I asked for it.

Guy Adam's photos, which fill the site's home page with haunting images of tragedy and triumph, speak for themselves. My gratitude to the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) for my being able to draw on an extraordinary abundance of meticulous research, publications and surveys. SAIRR is a unique South African institution, dedicated to standards of excellence that are the yardstick all South African research institutes and centers should strive to achieve.

And special thanks, too, to Howard Barrell, for permission to reproduce his Ph. D thesis on the MK, still the best contextual analysis of armed struggle in South Africa; to Struik publications for permission to reproduce "Reflections in Prison" edited by Mac Maharaj; to Anthea Jeffery for permission to reproduce extracts from " The Natal Story: Sixteen Years of Conflict," and to Tafelberg Publishers for permission to reproduce extracts from "Political Organisations in South Africa: A –Z" by Hennie Kotze and Anneke Greyling.

Of course there would be no web site without Learning Online and the commitment and vision of Anton van Dorsten and the professionalism of Annemie Stoman, Tahnya Schutte, Marisa Africa, Belinda Botma and webmeister Manny Perreira and Neil Moore. And were it not for my new friends and now colleagues Tim Baronetti and Francois de Kock who managed the process of transforming mountains of raw data into discrete, interconnected "bundles."

Photo credits to: Benny Gool; Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives who provided photographs from their archives from Eric Miller, Peta Bennett, Ronnark Modderdam, P. Ralo, Anna Zieminski, Paddy Donnelly, Rodger Bosch, Peter Aufden Leyder; South Africa Government Online; South Africa Alive with Possibility; and South Africa History Online.

And finally, yes, there is a finally, my love and thanks and whatever superlatives I can pull out of a rainbow of words with a dictionary of gratitude at the end to Pat Keefer, friend extraordinaire, companion in work and play for 20 years, as much a part of this site as I am, there at the beginning and there now, sharing gun shots in Thokoza and double shots at Mandela's inaugural, guide, councillor and yes, occasional pain in… To Pat, I dedicate this site for as I live to improve it in the years to come, Pat lives too.

Padraig O 'Malley
30 November 2004

PS: And Gladwin, I haven't forgotten you. Who could forget those café lattes you bring to the cottage…

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.