MATTHEWS, Zacharaih Keodirelang (1901-1968)

Scope and Content

Papers of Zachariah Keodirelang Matthews, 1933-1967; comprising typescript drafts for autobiography, including chapters on the Native Representative Council of South Africa, his role in the African National Congress (ANC) and his detention and trial for High Treason in 1956; microfilm of Z K Matthews personal papers comprising papers on his academic research on anthropology and native law, 1933-1935; correspondence and papers on his political activities, including material on the Native Representative Council of South Africa, 1942-1946, the ANC, 1942-1955; papers on Treason Trials, 1956-1961; general political correspondence, 1936-1967, includes letters from Govan Mbeki, Helen Suzman, Canon L John Collins and others, political articles and statements by Matthews, 1930-1967; correspondence and papers on education, including correspondene on his resignation from Fort Hare University, 1959, lecture notes, articles and statements on education; personal correspondence, 1937-1968; correpondence and papers on his work for the World Council of Churches, 1960-1966; papers on political and educational affairs in Botswana, 1933-1966; miscellanea, including articles by Matthews and others.

Administrative / Biographical History

Zachariah Keodirelang Matthews was born in the Cape Colony, South Africa, in 1901, and educated in South Africa, the United States and Britain. In 1936 he joined the staff of Fort Hare University as a lecturer in Anthropology and African Law. In 1945 he became a professor, and in 1954 Acting Principal. During this time he was active in political affairs, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1940, and soon assumed a leading role. In 1952 Mathews was involved in the preparations for a Defiance Campaign. In May 1953 he proposed that a National Convention of all South Africans be held during which a peace manifesto should be drafted. His proposal was generally met with approval by the ANC and several other organisation, and resulted in the Congress of the People of June 1955 during which the Freedom Charter was adopted. This activity led to his arrest in 1956, on a charge of High Treason, he was tried and acquitted. In 1959 he left Fort Hare, in 1960 the ANC was banned, and after the Sharpeville shootings he was detained for 135 days. In 1962 he left South Africa to join the staff of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, travelling widely in Africa on WCC business. He died in 1968 in Washington DC.


Microfilm of personal papers arranged in five series A: Research, B: Politics, C: Education, D: General Correspondence, 1937-1960, E: Events during 1961-1968, F: Miscellanea.

Access Information

Open although advance notice should be given. Access to individual items may be restricted under the Data Protection Act or the Freedom of Information Act.

Acquisition Information

The papers and microfilm came to ICS as part of Brian Willan's Southern Africa Project.

Other Finding Aids

See link to repository catalogue.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Conditions Governing Use

A photocopying service is available, at the discretion of the Library Staff. Copies are supplied solely for research or private study. Requests to publish, or to quote from, original material should be submitted to the Information Resources Manager.

Related Material

The ICS holds a large number of collections relating to South African politics, including African National Congress (ICS 1), Mary Benson (ICS 6), Ruth First (ICS 117), Ruth Hayman (ICS 30), Baruch Hirson (ICS 32), Mandela Trials papers (ICS 52), Josie Palmer (ICS 57), Edward Roux (ICS 67), South African Institute of Race Relations (ICS 95), University of Cape Town (ICS 81-82), University of Transkei (ICS 19)

Location of Originals

It is not known where in South Africa the originals are held.


The papers were used by M Wilson in Freedom for my People: the autobiography of Z.K. Matthews, 1901-1968 published by Rex Collings, 1981.