Handover of the Rivonia Trial dictabelts to the French Government [fr]

On Friday October 10 2014 Madame Elisabeth Barbier received the dictabelts of the Rivonia Trial from the Department of Arts and Culture which will be sent to France for digitisation and restoration. Acting Director General of Arts and Culture Mr Vuyo Jack handed over the valuable recordings to Madame Barbier


During the French South African Seasons (held in 2012 and 2013), the French National Audiovisual Institute (INA), hosted a seminar on audio-visual archives in Cape Town. The National Film, Video and Sound Archives of South Africa (NFVSA), a sub-directorate of the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa (NARSSA), made a presentation on access to the collections at the NFVSA
during the seminar in November 2012. Central to the presentation was the importance of access to information.


This led to discussions regarding a partnership between France and South Africa to restore and digitise so-called dictabelts, on which the Rivonia Trial was recorded in the early 1960s, to make these pieces of world heritage more accessible to the general population. It will also preserve the unique section of South African collective memory as the dictabelts are old and in danger of deterioration.

Acting Director General of Arts and Culture Mr Vuyo Jack - JPEG

Dictabelts were a sound recording format intended for use in offices. In South Africa it was used most extensively in the court system. Sound was mechanically recorded by an engraving process and replayed with a stylus similar to that of a microgroove record player. As such the Rivonia Trial was also recorded on dictabelt. Through the years the technology became obsolete and the dictabelt recorders fell into disuse in the 1970’s.

One of the dictabelts to be sent to France. - JPEG

Early in 2013, dictabelts from the Rivonia Trial were identified as the first collection to be digitised due to the importance of this court case in South Africa’s history.
On 20 December 2013 the Department of Arts and Culture and National Archives and Records Service of South Africa (NARSSA) signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the French National Audiovisual Institute (INA) to implement the project – after a technical evaluation of the material was done in France. France has the available equipment and skills to bring the project to fruition.

From left: Frank Marchetti, Frédéric Chambon and Madame Elisabeth Barbier. - JPEG

In the meantime the National Film, Video and Sound Archives of South Africa (under NARSSA) submitted a request to the “Save your Archives” programme of the Federation of International Television Archives for funding assistance for the project. €28 000.00 was received from them in support of the project. INA agreed to contribute a further €220 000.00 (almost R3 million) towards the project to digitise the more than 500 dictabelts in the Rivonia Trial dictabelt collection, which is part of an audio archives collection of 10 500 dictabelts recorded between 1950 and 1964.


On Sunday (October 12 2014), two officials from the National Archives will leave for France to deliver the first batch of 200 dictabelts. This team, who will be present at the briefing, will personally hand over the dictabelts to INA for the project to start.

Agnès Saal, chief executive and chairwoman of INA, will meet the technical team in Paris on October 15 for the official handover of the dictabelts to the INA head office.

The digitized dictabelts will be back in South Africa in 2016 and the information that has been inaccessible will be accessible to all South Africans for the first time in 50 years.


French President Francois Hollande lauded the project as ‘a way for France to keep alive the memory of the struggle against apartheid’.

Download the Ambassador’s speech:

PDF - 24.7 kb
Download the Ambassador’s speech.

publie le 28/10/2014

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