Fonds BC1005 - COSAWR Collection

Reference code



COSAWR Collection


  • 1970-1990 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

94 archive boxes

Name of creator


Administrative history

The Committee on South African War Resistance (COSAWR) was founded in 1978 by the merging of two groups of South African war resisters active in Britain. It functions as a self-help organization for South African military refugees. It also worked to raise the issue of militarism in South Africa and conducted research into the South African military structure and resistance. Its magazine 'Resister' became the leading magazine on South Africa's militarisation. In 1990, when the sentencing of conscientious objectors (CO's) in South Africa changed considerably, the majority of COSAWR decided to return to South Africa.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The COSAWR Collection was deposited with the University of Cape Town Libraries at the end of 1990 by Matthew Temple on behalf of the Committee on South African War Resistance.

Scope and content

The London-based Committee on South African War Resistance was established to assist war resisters who left South Africa to avoid conscription within the country, and to give support to those who were resisting conscription within the country. The Collection is in two parts. The first part, War Resistance Files, consists of press clippings, correspondence and other material dealing with resistance to the Apartheid War, both in South Africa and abroad. The material reflects war resistance in general in South Africa, as well as detailing the cases of specific conscientious objectors, the international support received by war resisters and the South African government's response to war resistance. A collection of United Nations documents reflects world opposition to the South African government's policies over the years. It contains material about conscientious objectors who left South Africa and sought residence or political asylum in other countries, and a section of media resources; books, videos, audio tapes, relating to war resistance. (A list of these is available.) The second part of the collection gives a comprehensive overview of the South African Military as depicted mainly in the news media. It covers military legislation, the structures of the SADF, conscription and recruitment, propaganda, especially that aimed at young people in educational institutions, and the role of women. Other sections deal with opposition to the apartheid war, internal and external, collaboration with the apartheid war, internal and external, illegal arms sales to and from South Africa, and relations with the frontline states. Special attention is given to the role of the ANC in exile, the churches, mercenaries and right wing organisations. A large section deals with the effects of war on individuals, post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers, corruption and crime in the armed forces, and general war psychosis. After February 1990 a number of war resisters returned to South Africa, and the organisation was disbanded.


System of arrangement

Conditions governing access

No restrictions apply

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

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  • English



Accession area