Rise in subscriptions

As you will know from the invoice you have received, we have been forced by the increased cost of printing to raise our annual subscription to R250 p.a. We apologise for this unavoidable increase. As in the past, payments can be made in cash paid at the office, by cheque or by means of electronic fund transfer (EFT). If you make an EFT payment, please ensure that you insert your name and initials in the ‘Reference’ field and, if possible, send us a proof of payment. Foreign members paying in foreign currency can make use of PayPal using our old email address vanriebk@mweb.co.za


2016 AGM and election of new Council for 2016-2019

The 97th AGM of the VRS was held at Ravenswood House, Gardens, Cape Town on 6 December 2016. Attended by just over 60 members, it elected a new Council to serve for the next three years and heard the chair, Professor Howard Phillips, spell out the Society’s publishing plans for the next seven years and the major challenges which it would have to address in this period, viz. recruiting new members, solidifying its financial base, taking advantage of the digital revolution to enhance its product and streamline its marketing and, possibly, re-branding itself when it reaches its centenary in 2018. After the AGM, the 2016 volume, From Cattle-herding to Editor’s Chair: The Unfinished Autobiography of Richard Victor Selope Thema, edited by Alan Cobley, was launched. Members then enjoyed drinks and snacks in the elegant garden of Ravenswood House.

The members of the new Council are: Professor Howard Phillips (chair), Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen (deputy chair), Mr Danie De Villiers (treasurer), Mr Hugh Amoore, Ms Tanya Barben, Dr Francois Cleophas, Mr Andrew Duncan, Dr Anton Ehlers, Mr Justice Ian Farlam, Dr Russell Martin, Professor Adam Mendelsohn, Professor Alan Morris, Professor Susie Newton-King, Dr Sandy Shell, Mr Nick Southey, Professor Sandra Swart, Professor Chris van der Merwe.


Three Launches of our 2016 volume

Our 2016 volume, From Cattle-herding to Editor’s Chair: The Unfinished Autobiography and Writings of Richard Victor Selope Thema was launched at three separate venues in December 2016, two in Cape Town and one in Johannesburg. All three launches were very well attended and addressed by the editor, Professor Alan Cobley of the University of the West Indies, who had specially come to South Africa to do so from his home in Barbados.


Two of these launches were, memorably, also graced by the attendance of members of R.V. Selope Thema’s family whose joyous presence turned them into celebrations of their forebear. As much as the Thema family expressed its gratitude to the VRS for putting RV’s autobiography into print at long last, so was the VRS honoured by their enthusiastic and meaningful participation in the launches. It was very obviously a ‘win-win’ situation. The Johannesburg launch which was attended by an audience of close to 100 VRS members and non-members could best be described as a blend of a more formal launch and a family celebration. Alan Cobley’s address was followed by presentations and reminiscences from three family members, John J.R. Masemola (the oldest living descendant of the volume’s subject), Godfrey Mhlongo and Phekane Ramarumo, from Siyabonga Gama, the chair of the R.V. Selope Thema Foundation Trust, and from Duma Nkosi, the former mayor of Ekurheleni. The historian Jane Carruthers, who recently stepped down as a member of the VRS’s Council, rounded off the proceedings before all guests shared some very enjoyable drinks and snacks.


At the launches the significant financial contribution of the Sowetan (the linear descendant of RV’s newspaper, Bantu World) towards the cost of printing the volume was readily acknowledged, while the owners/managers of the three venues which hosted the launches – Patrick Esnouf of Ravenswood House in Cape Town, Nicol Stassen and Wayne Northcote of Protea Books in Rondebosch and Doron Locketz and Vivienn Yudaken of Bookdealers in Johannesburg – were publicly thanked for their generous hospitality.


We have had offers of assistance from two willing volunteers, Phoebe Hirsch and David Leishman, who will be helping in the office on an occasional basis as needed. Many thanks to Phoebe and David.


New members

Adam Mendelsohn of Cape Town; Jennifer Rands of Cape Town; Sandy Murray of Malanshof; Ian Glass of Cape Town; Allan Dickson of Cape Town; Uriel Tagar of Cape Town; Mark Tomlinson of Hoedspruit; Ben Proske of Sea Point; Dalikhaya Zihlangu of Johannesburg; Willem Pretorius of Van Riebeeckshof.


In memoriam

Mrs J Bezuidenhout; Mr Frederick Dimond; Mr G.R. Pretorius; Dr Chris Rainier-Pope.


E-mail addresses please

If you have received this newsletter via the post but have an e-mail address too, please inform us at office@vanrs.co.za so we can send future communications to you electronically. The saving in postal charges is considerable. Also, please keep us updated if any of your contact details change.


2017 re-print

This year we will be reprinting The Diary of the Rev. Francis Owen, Missionary with Dingaan, together with the accounts of Zulu affairs by the interpreters, Messrs. Hully and Kirkman (edited by Sir George E. Cory), originally published by the VRS in 1926 as no. 7 in our First Series.

Owen (1802-1854) wrote one of the best-known descriptions of life in Dingane’s kraal, including a report of the death of Piet Retief and his followers in 1838, of which he was the only white witness. This VRS volume made this section of his diary available in full for the first time.

The price of this paperback re-print is R140 to members in Southern Africa and R240 to foreign members, to which postage and packaging cost should be added. We attach a summary of all the available reprint volumes with their respective prices. So please place your orders timeously, either by email, phone or by mailing the attached order form back to us.


Back volumes for sale

The following second-hand copies of back volumes from our Second Series are for sale at R60 each (excluding postage and packing). They are all in fair condition.

With the Second Series nearing its end, this is a good opportunity to fill in gaps in your existing holdings. Contact the VRS office to order a copy. First come first served.

II-2: Valentyn, part 1

II-3: Rose-Innes

II-4: Valentyn, part 2

II-5: Livingstone

II-6: Sparrman, vol 1

II-7: Sparrman, vol 2

II-8: Richardson (2 copies)

II-9: Cape Monthly Magazine (2 copies)

II-10: Somerville (3 copies)

II-11: Mafeking (3 copies)

II-12: Molteno (2 copies)


II-13. Swellengrebel (2 copies)

II-14. Waterston (2 copies)

II-15. Garrett (4 copies)

II-16: Johannesburg Pioneers (2 copies)

II-17. Thunberg (2 copies)

II-19. Crealock

II-20. HMS Guardian

II-21. Palgrave

II-22. French Boy (3 copies)

II-23. Wahlberg (2 copies)

II-26. Krause



New Website

We are in the process of developing a new website since the technology used for the current site has become obsolete. While this development is going on we will endeavour to keep the current website up to date but must apologise that this will not always be possible and would suggest that you confirm information on the site with the office by email or telephone. The Afrikaans version of the website will be updated once the new site is up and running smoothly.