The restructuring of the NSFT’s finances from a share basis to a unit trust portfolio has worked wonders from an operational standpoint. Remote consultation and reporting originally demanded by the pandemic continue to be the norm. Unforeseen personal circumstances disrupted communication in 2023, but this was restored in December. Urgent matters were dealt with on an ad hoc consultative basis.

Michelle Bartlett continued to manage hardcopy sales and maintain the website. With book sales in continued decline the latter is the main focus of trust activity. However, the number of visits to it dipped disappointingly in 2023 particularly from July onwards.

Natalia 52 appeared in April, a well-balanced issue of three main articles, a discussion paper, a notes and queries section of three items and six book reviews. Given the decline in general historical and related writing this was a considerable achievement. Natalia constitutes an immensely valuable archive to which a great deal more could yet be added. As usual, one book was published – Mary Gardner’s The Constant Gardner: A Memoir of Colin Oxenham Gardner, Anti-Apartheid Activist and Academic. This is the last book to be published by the trust in hardcopy. In future, e-books will be produced with the option for authors to print at their expense.

This next stage started in 2023 with George Hughes’s book on the Natal Parks Board. Work is about to start on another title. The trust has now been a member of African Books Collective (ABC, Oxford) for two and a half years. ABC provides international reach with a print-on-demand operation. As yet there has been no information on sales activity in 2023.

The trust’s collections remain housed at the Alan Paton Centre on the local campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The trustees have tacitly accepted that they are de facto the property of the UKZN, so the trust’s annual subsidy has fallen away. The other Pietermaritzburg institution with which the trust has links is the Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository. It receives donated copies of all trust publications.

The trust’s audit for 2021 was completed at an extraordinarily high cost considering the limited nature of its financial and general activity.

Thanks, as always, are due for another successful year to fellow trustees, to Taryn Neizel of Hay & Scott and to the freelancers who work on the trust’s publications.   

Christopher Merrett
January 2024