Minutes of the 101st Annual General Meeting of Historical Publications Southern Africa – HiPSA (previously the Van Riebeeck Society for the Publication of Southern African Historical Documents – VRS) held online on Zoom at 18h00 on Tuesday 15th December 2020.
1. Welcome, Zoom Protocol and Order of Proceedings
3. Hail and Farewell
4. Minutes of 100th AGM on 27 November 2019
5. Matters arising not on agenda
6. Report of the Treasurer
7. Report of the Chair
8. Any other busines
1. Welcome, Zoom Protocol, and Order of Proceedings
The Chair, Prof Howard Phillips, welcomed the members present, and explained the Zoom Protocol and Order of Proceedings. The AGM would be followed, after a brief interval, by the launch of this year’s annual volume, Sol T Plaatje: A Life in Letters. Edited by Brian Willan and Sabata-mpho Mokae. Unfortunately, Sabata-mpho was unwell and thus not able to attend. Brian Willan would introduce the volume.
Prof Phillips thanked Laura Phillips who was facilitating the Zoom session.
3. Hail and Farewell
Prof Phillips called for a moment of silence to commemorate those members that had passed away during the current year.
GROBLER DR J
KINCAID-SMITH MRS E
UNTERHALTER MR B
MEYER MR S
RUSSELL MRS E
PIENAAR ADV J LE F
METS DR J T
MALAN DR H
DE WAAL DR J
VIALL MR J
WITTENBERG MR G
BUYS MR K S
VAN KERKEN MR H
SHEPLEY MR W
TYSON MR H
VAN ZYL MR R J
MORRIS MR M C W
Prof Phillips then welcomed members who had joined the society during 2020.
JONES MR N Woking, UK
BRAND MS D Stellenbosch
TERBLANCHE MS M Macassar
BESTER MR M C Cape Town
PIETERSEN MR S B Johannesburg
NTABENI MR M E Cape
MOKHOAETSI MS M Cape Town
HUNLUN MS M L Vredendal
JANSEN VAN VUUREN DR A Lynnwood
CHEWINS DR L Gauteng
MARAIS ADV R Cape Town
HOLDRIDGE MR C Mahikeng
RUTHERFORD MR K Knysna
MEIRING MR J Gauteng
SWIEGERS MR G Stellenbosch
REMMINGTON MS J Bryanston
DOMINY DR G Pretoria
GRIEVE MR A George
NIENABER DR R Gauteng
NEL SE E Hermanus
SIDOGI MR P Pretoria
NDZAMELA MR P Cape Town
ACOTT MRS H Cape Town
BOIKHUTSO MR S Gauteng
SMITH MR E Gauteng
HARTMANN MR R Alexandria, USA
BLUNDELL DR G Pietermaritzburg
MAYER MR R Johannesburg
BLACKMAN DR M Cape Town
PARKER PROF G (GRANT) Stanford USA
4. Minutes of the last AGM held on 27 November 2019
Prof Phillips read through the minutes, which were also shown on screen. Acceptance was proposed by Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen and Dr Sandy Shell, and the minutes were accepted.
5. Matters arising not on the agenda
There were no matters arising not on the agenda.
6. Report of the Treasurer
(a) The Treasurer, Mr Danie de Villiers, tabled his report. Provisional income and expenditure statements were shown on screen. We were still receiving Centenary Fund donations, and in some cases, members were donating overpayments to the Fund.
(b) Hardcover sales were low in 2020, due to the late printing of the Plaatje volume. As the Plaatje volume was bulky, and had to be sent as a parcel, postage costs had increased.
(c) IT costs had also increased due to special software having been bought for the production of e-books.
(d) No invoices for rental for our office in the Centre for the Book had been received in 2019 and 2020, but these costs had been factored in. Mr de Villiers suggested that the matter should be discussed at the next meeting of the Executive Committee.
(e) The society had in 2019 made a donation to the Thema family from royalties obtained from Kwela Books for the publication of their paperback version of our Selope Thema volume. In 2020 we had donated a payment to Cape Town High School’s Covid-19 fund.
(f) Mr de Villiers noted that we still recorded a surplus even though no book publication subsidies were received in 2019 and 2020. In 2021 a R50 000 subsidy for the second Le Vaillant volume will be received.
The floor was opened to questions and comments
Mr Andrew Duncan queried the lack of rental invoices, and Mr de Villiers replied that the matter had simply been forgotten by the National Library. Mr Duncan noted that the growth in the production of e-books was advancing.
7. Report of the Chair
Prof Phillips tabled his report.
Over HiPSA’s 102nd year, the Covid-19 pandemic – and particularly the restrictions it has brought – has loomed very large indeed. Like all serious pandemics, it has raised numerous obstacles to the normal operation of the Society, but, as with all such pandemics, it has produced opportunities as well. This dual aspect provides me with the theme for this report, viz. obstacles and opportunities.
• a string of delays in the publication of this year’s volume, which has meant that finally, the volume will be posted only this week; consequently, it will be some time yet before you receive your copy, for which I sincerely apologize. Those who indicated in advance that they will collect their copy from our office will be informed shortly when this will be possible.
• the cancellation of live academic conferences, book fairs, gatherings and talks at which our volumes would have been publicized and sold e.g., talks to historical and heritage societies in the W. Cape and the 1820 Settlers’ bicentenary get-together in the E. Cape (which was why we chose to reprint the Chronicle of Jeremiah Goldswain, Albany Settler of 1820 this year). In February, just before the first lockdown, the editor of our 2019 volume, Sandy Shell, did twice speak about her volume, Indoda Ebisithanda (‘The Man Who Loved Us’): The Reverend James Laing Among the amaXhosa, 1831-1836 before appreciative audiences at Rhodes University and at the Amathole Museum, but the pandemic put paid to repeating these successes in the W. Cape
• the closure of our office in the Centre for the Book for 3 months, removing the possibility of walk-in sales
• the shelving of our usual AGM cum-book launch and all the convivial social interaction and book sales accompanying them
• the suspension for several months of the Post Office’s already limping service and it’s frustrating, ongoing unreliability as a service provider since its re-opening; no wonder that 82 members have opted to collect their volumes themselves this year or have them couriered or delivered by hand.
Flowing in part from these difficulties and obstacles, our membership has continued to decline overall. Despite signing up 32 new members this year, deaths and resignations have reduced our total paid-up membership to 576, i.e., 31 fewer than the 607 of 12 months ago. Another 134 members are still on our books but with their subscriptions in arrears.
Yet, the other side of Covid coin reveals opportunities which, to their credit, the Society and its ardent staff and keen Council have seized, at least in part.
Most obviously, thanks to digital media the Society has been able to extend its reach far beyond the limitations hitherto imposed on us by time and space to:
• hold a truly global AGM for the first time in its 102-year history, at which members from virtually all around the globe are present, thanks to Zoom
• to have one of the two editors of this year’s volume attend and speak, even though he is physically thousands of kilometres away in Devon, England
• to publicize to the world our, sadly, all too relevant 2018 volume, In a Time of Plague: Memories of the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 in South Africa, in webinars, virtual talks and lectures, online chat-shows, press articles and TV and radio shows, with the result that we have sold 162 copies to non-members since its publication
• most decisively, to take a step which had long been contemplated by Council but which became essential in the face of the obstacles placed by lockdown in the way of selling and despatching our hardcopy volumes, viz. turning these hardcopy volumes into eBooks too and selling them through our website. In a Time of Plague was the first of these, but thanks to the sterling efforts of Sandy Shell, Sandra Commerford, Danie de Villiers and Rolf Proske, 18 more titles have followed. To date we have sold 32 eBooks. (In many ways this experience is typical of how severe pandemics often accelerate leisurely, slow-moving trends into prompt action).
More of our past volumes will be digitized in 2021, with our aim being to have all of our 102 volumes in eBook form eventually. Thanks to Danie de Villiers’ digital acumen – he has re-fashioned our website into a modern form so that it is unrecognizable from even two years ago – these volumes and their hardcopy forebears will all be imaginatively advertised and sold online.
What new volumes will be part of this future, two-format publishing process?
Next year, we will eventually publish volume 2 of Francois le Vaillant’s 1790 Travels into the Interior of Africa via the Cape of Good Hope, finally stilling the curiosity of those of our members who, having been left hanging at the end of volume 1 as the young Francois flirted with ‘my beautiful prankster’ – a local Gonaqua maiden swimming in the Great Fish River – are keen to know what happened next.
Among the volumes to follow after 2021 are the correspondence of the pioneering Black trade union, the ICU between 1919 and 1941; the letters of Lord Buxton, South Africa’s Governor-General during and after World War I; the recollections of the Cape Afrikaner politician and number 2 to Jan Smuts, F.S. Malan; Reports on San Genocide in the Northern Cape in the 1860s; and the gossipy but observant journals of an late 18th Century/early 19th Century British settler in Cape Town, Samuel Eusebius Hudson.
As you can recognize, HiPSA is not short of an array of historical gems to publish, but it is short of members to sustain it. The Council will continue to look after the first task, but we need you, our members and visitors, to help us with the second. At R310 until 31 December – in return for which you will receive this year’s volume of Sol Plaatje’s letters – it’s a bargain which makes Black Friday deals look exorbitant.
There were no questions from the floor. The report was proposed by Ms Tanya Barben and seconded by Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen.
8. Any other business
The meeting closed at: 19h00
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