Minutes of the 96th Annual General Meeting of the Van Riebeeck Society for the Publication of Southern African Historical Documents (VRS) held at Ravenswood House, Hatfield Street, Gardens at 17h30 on Thursday 28 January 2016.


  1. Welcome and apologies
  2. Condonation of delay in holding AGM
  3. In Memoriam
  4. Confirmation of minutes of 95th AGM held on 9 August 2014
  5. Matters arising from minutes
  6. Report of the Treasurer
  7. Report of the Chair
  8. AOB
  1. Welcome and apologies

The Chairman, Prof Howard Phillips, welcomed the members present. Apologies were recorded (as per the attached list. He expressed the Society’s thanks to Patrick and Chavonne Esnouf who made their beautiful home available for the meeting.

  1. Condonation of delay in holding AGM

Proposed by Dr Sandy Shell, and seconded by Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen and Ms Tanya Barben. Agreed.

  1. In Memoriam

Members stood for a minute’s silence whilst the Chairman read out the list of members who had died since the previous AGM (list attached).

  1. Confirmation of the minutes of the 95th AGM held on 9 August 2014.

Copies of the minutes were available at the AGM. Acceptance of the minutes was proposed by Mr Ken Evans and seconded by Dr Stephen Craven. They were accepted by all without discussion.

  1. Matters arising from the minutes


  1. Report of the Treasurer

The new Treasurer, Mr Danie de Villiers, who took up the post in June, explained the Society’s financial position. The Society will have a small surplus for 2015, due largely to a donation of R20 000 by Mr Vasily Kaliazin to assist with the funding of the new volume.

For 2016 Council decided to increase the subscription to R230 per annum, but despite this increase the estimation is that the Society will end the year with a deficit. As this situation is neither desirable nor sustainable a number of initiatives are planned to eliminate the deficit for 2016 and thereafter. The majority of our investments (65%) are currently in Unit Trusts.

Mr de Villiers noted that the market value of our long term investments increased by R273 000 or 34% in the 2014 Financial Year. However, the value of our short term investments decreased by R113 000 mainly due to a negative cash flow.

Looking at the Statement of Financial Performance for 2014 Mr de Villiers stated that the performance was not satisfactory. A loss of R111 000 was recorded compared to a surplus of about R49 000 the previous year.

Acceptance of the Treasurer’s report was proposed by Dr Sandy Shell and seconded by Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen. Agreed unanimously.

(A copy of the audited accounts is appended)

  1. Report of the Chair

Professor Phillips observed that the year had been challenging, marked by personal and institutional ill health. Increasing postal costs, accompanied by deterioration in service levels, were seriously impacting on the Society’s financial situation, and this problem would have to be addressed.

Personal ill health had caused the resignation of Mr Piet Westra and Ms Cora Ovens, while a move from Durban had seen Prof. Johan Wasserman resign. Successors to the first two had been found in the persons of Mr Danie de Villiers, as Treasurer, and Mr Rolf Proske, as Administrator.

The Chair paid tribute to both Piet Westra and Cora Ovens. Mr Westra was an exceptional Treasurer who had laid down firm financial foundations. He had been a source of both wisdom and profit. Cora Ovens was a remarkable Administrator who took on numerous tasks with zeal and determination. Professor Phillips also voiced his appreciation for our two office assistants, Ms Sandra Commerford and Ms Jackie Loos.

The Society gained 35 new members during 2015, but lost 49. There were 1 129 members in 2015, of whom 707 were paid up.

A tentative experiment in progress involved the possibility of going the e-book route for publications, and the 2015 volume had been digitised.

Council had discussed various options regarding how the Society’s centenary could be celebrated in 2018, and would investigate further. Suggestions were called for.

Professor Phillips expressed his thanks to Council and the Executive Committee.

At question time a discussion ensued on various options, such as home delivery, to circumvent the postal service in the delivery of publications.

The Chair’s report was proposed by Mr Rupert Bromley and seconded by Mr Randolph Vigne, and was accepted unanimously.

(A full copy of the report is appended).

  1. Any Other Business

Professor Chris van der Merwe proposed a vote of thanks to Professor Phillips for his able leadership of the Society.

The Chair noted that the name of the Society was controversial. Council wanted to raise this issue, and open it to discussion among the membership. The Chair asked for opinions from the floor. Mr Randolph Vigne asked why the Society had been so named originally, and the Chair explained that the original choice was the result of a compromise. Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen expanded on this by stating that in 1918 white South African society had sought a united identity. A general discussion followed with Dr Russell Martin stressing that a decision should be taken in a reasonable time, while Ms Cora Ovens suggested an e-mail survey of member’s opinions.

The meeting closed at 18h36.