Papers of Mary Benson

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Letters from Semane Khama Molotlegi to Mary Benson and press cuttings from South African and other newspapers concerning the banning of the Bafokeng Women's Club in 1988 and the deportation of Semane Molotlegi from Bophuthatswana in 1991.

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Benson (1919-2000) enlisted in the South African Women's Army as a Personal Assistant (in World War Two) after a period spent travelling in Europe and the United States. After the War she became secretary to the film director, David Lean, and befriended Alan Paton, author of Cry, the beloved country: a story of comfort in desolation (London; Jonathan Cape; 1948), determining thenceforth to involve herself more fully in her country's politics. Between 1950 and 1956 she aided the radical Anglican priest, Revd. Michael Scott and helped found the African Bureau. She became Secretary of the Treason Trials Defence Fund, 1957, published Tshekedi Khama (London; Faber & Faber; [1960]) and African Patriots. The story of the African National Congress of South Africa (London; Faber & Faber; 1963). Also in 1963, she became the first South African to testify to the Committee on Apartheid at the United Nations, calling for sanctions. In 1966 she was banned and placed under house arrest before going into exile. Her other publications include Nelson Mandela (London; Hamilton; 1986).

Semane Molotlegi is a member of the Bafokeng Royal Family, Bophuthatswana, South Africa, daughter of Tshekedi Khama and wife of Lebone Molotlegi, Bafokeng Chief. She was one of the creators of the Bafokeng Women's Club, which was banned by Bophuthatswana's President Lucas Mangope in 1988. Following Mangope's persecution of the Bafokeng people (who were opposed to incorporation within the Bophuthatswanan homeland), her husband went into exile in 1988, while she was issued with a deportation order in 1991.

The Bafokeng Women's Club was founded in 1970 as a non-political organisation dedicated to the improvement of the Bafokeng community (in terms of educational and welfare work, community development, etc.). However, the Club came increasingly under attack by President Mangope, who accused it of connections with the state's opposition party. After an attempted coup in 1988, Lebone and Semane Molotlegi were briefly interned, and the club ordered to cease its activities. Despite this, Semane Molotlegi campaigned in Europe and the United States on behalf of the Club, and in the same year instigated a case in the Supreme Court to overturn Mangope's ban.

Conditions Governing Access

Bodleian reader's ticket required.

Note

Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, Bodleian Library ofCommonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of papers without permission. Contact thelibrary in the first instance.

Related Material

Draft of a manuscript, with associated correspondence, working notes and documents, collected for Benson's biography of Tshekedi Khama, with unpublished draft of a biography by D. Buchanan, upon which Miss Benson's work was partly based, [1950s-1960s] (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1514); correspondence, notes, proofs and other papers relating to her biography of Tshekedi Khama, with press cuttings and photographs, 1949-1982 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1908).

Corporate Names