wopko_jensmaThe site is divided into seven main sections. The Webnotes, which provide the most direct link to the book itself, comprise a series of extended annotations, cued by lower-case letters in the book, offering further information or developing some aspects of the argument. The Bibliography and Chronology sections simply duplicate what is also available in the book. The Posts and Further Testimony sections include material added after publication. The three other main sections incorporate various primary research materials.

The section entitled Censor Biographies comprises a series of brief biographical sketches of just over forty notable or especially influential censors. More details about some of them can also be found in the documents relating to the membership of the two main censorship boards in the 1960s and early 1970s and in the censor application forms (follow the links entitled Dekker Board Membership, Kruger Board Membership, and Censor Application Form in the Documents).

The Documents section contains thirty-four original documents in PDF format. These include the materials mentioned above as well as a selected sample of censorship reports, the text of various censorship Acts dating from the 1930s to the 1970s, and a section from the Government Gazette for April 1966 identifying a range of banned writers, journalists and political activists. I have generally tried to select documents originally produced in English, but some are inevitably in Afrikaans only. The originals of the censorship reports, the censor application forms, and the board membership details are held at the Western Cape Provincial Archives and Records (WCPA) in Cape Town, South Africa.


It is now possible to locate the censors’s reports and other related documentation held at the WCPA via the Cape Town Archives Repository online (code KAB). This is part of the larger online resource for the National Archives in South Africa.  A search simply using ‘Gordimer’, for instance, brings up a list of 22 documents, beginning with the following:


The references appear either in the form P79/6/73 (i.e. publication/year/month/file number) for post-1975 files, as 272/66 (i.e. file number/year) for files created between late 1963 and early 1975, or as 29181 (i.e. the file number) for those from the pre-1963 period. The actual files are, for the most part, held at the WCPA, the latter two groups under the BCS range. The post-1975 files are in the IDP range.

To get another perspective on the censors’ activities, it is well worth consulting the Beacon for Freedom of Expression website. It includes nearly 14,500 entries relating to South Africa, but it is neither complete nor especially reliable. Moreover, as it is based largely on Jacobsen’s Index of Objectionable Literature (1956-), it records only those titles actually banned. It does not list those scrutinized but then approved for circulation. Jacobsen’s unofficial loose-leaf index, which was itself based on the list of banned titles published each month in the Government Gazette, was updated at regular intervals throughout the apartheid era. It was used mostly by librarians, publishers and booksellers to keep track of the censors’ rulings.

%d bloggers like this: