Minutes of the 97th Annual General Meeting of the Van Riebeeck Society for the Publication of Southern African Historical Documents (VRS) held at Ravenswood House, Hatfield Street, Gardens at 17h30 on Tuesday 6th December 2016.


  1. Welcome and apologies
  2. In Memoriam
  3. Confirmation of minutes of 96th AGM held on 28 January 2016
  4. Matters arising from minutes
  5. Report of the Treasurer
  6. Report of the Chair
  7. AOB
  1. Welcome and apologies

The Chair, 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. 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). Randolph Vigne and Rodney Davenport, both long term members of the Society, would be particularly missed.

  1. Confirmation of the minutes of the 96th AGM held on 28 January 2016.

Copies of the minutes were available at the AGM. Acceptance of the minutes was proposed by Dr Sandy Shell and seconded by Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen. The minutes were accepted by all without discussion.

  1. Matters arising from the minutes


  1. Report of the Treasurer

Financial documentation was made available to members. The Treasurer, Mr Danie de Villiers, referred to the audited annual financial statements in explaining the Society’s financial position:

  • Statement of Financial Position
  • Statement of Financial Performance
  • Income statement projection versus budget
  • Notes to the Annual Financial Statements

Mr de Villiers noted that the Society’s financial situation was generally healthy. In 2015, the market value of long term investments had increased by 6%. At the end of 2015 there was a surplus of R150 000 more than that recorded for 2014. The income statement of financial performance therefore showed a surplus for 2015 compared to a large deficit in 2014. Discussing the budget, the Treasurer noted that the Society was similarly ending 2016 with a surplus. A review of the last three years thus showed a deficit for 2014 and surpluses for 2015 and 2016.

Dr Stephen Craven asked whether direct debit could be used to collect subscriptions. Mr de Villiers replied, noting that such a system would be expensive to implement and manage.

Acceptance of the Treasurer’s report was proposed by Dr Hugh Amoore and seconded by Mr Andrew Duncan. Agreed unanimously.

(A copy of the audited accounts is appended)

  1. Report of the Chair

Professor Phillips said that it was an honour to have members of the Thema family present at the meeting.

He expressed his gratitude to the hosts, Patrick and Chavonne Esnouf for generously making their beautiful home available to the Society. He also thanked the Principal of Cape Town High School, Mr Petersen who arranged for parking space and provided tables and chairs.

The year 2016 had been a year of two new faces and of administrative reform. Mr de Villiers, Rolf Proske, the new administrator, and Sandra Commerford, the office assistant had together streamlined office procedures and management. The Chair particularly thanked Sandra Commerford for her efforts in office administration. He also thanked Mr Tony Westby-Nunn for his volunteer work at the office. The Chair called for further volunteers to provide administrative assistance. He thanked the administrative staff, and noted that the new online administrative systems are still a work in progress. The Society’s website was in the process of being upgraded and modernised.

The Chair gave an outline of prospective volumes for 2017 through to 2023, and mused where the Society would be in 2023. In order to continue and thrive, the Society would have to:

  1. Recruit more members. There had been a downward trend in membership in the last few years.
  2. The Society would have to remain financially secure.
  3. The Society would have to meet contemporary and developing digital demands. The 2015 volume had been digitised as an e-book.
  4. Re-branding. The new Council would consider the matter of re-naming in 2018. The Council would also have to explore fund-raising opportunities

Prof Phillips thanked outgoing Council members Prof Jane Carruthers, Dr Con de Wet, Prof Sandra Klopper and Prof Johan Wasserman, who are all retiring. The Chair thanked Dr Con de Wet in particular. He also thanked the five members of Exco who serve on the Council. Prof Phillips noted that he had enjoyed his 15 years as a member of Council and as Chair. Elizabeth van Heyningen proposed a vote of thanks to Prof Phillips.

Discussion ensued on the Chair’s report.

In reply to a question from the floor the Chair stated that the situation of the editor of the Peter Kolbe volume was still uncertain. A further question queried how the Society acquired new members, and the Chair explained that this was done by means of inter alia a presence at conferences and support for students at universities. The Society had been represented at the Cape Town Book Fair, which unfortunately was now defunct. Advertising was mainly by word of mouth as extensive advertising was beyond the Society’s budget. The Chair noted that the current young generation was perhaps not as keen on buying traditional books as was previously the case.

The question of a new name for the Society was posed. The Chair stated that any new name should be neutral, and should be linked to the old name, as is “Formerly the Van Riebeeck Society”, especially as this would facilitate web searches. The new Council would be tasked with this question.

As to plans to re-print old volumes, the Chair noted that in the past year 100 reprints had been sold. These printings were successful and financially prudent as the printing was on demand. The next reprint would be the diary of the Rev Francis Owen.

The Chair’s report was proposed by Mr Ken Evans and seconded by Ms Tanya Barben, and was accepted unanimously.

(A full copy of the report is appended)

  1. Any Other Business

Mr John Rennie read out the list of 16 nominations for the new Council. New nominations were those of Hugh Amoore, Danie de Villiers, Adam Mendelsohn and Sandra Swift. The nominations were accepted by the meeting.

The Chair announced a break before the book launch proceeded, and the meeting closed at 18h24.