The Book Appeal for Eastern Cape has now come to an end, after sending 10 container-loads - around half a million books weighing some 90 tonnes - in its 20 year history.   Many, many thanks to all who helped in any way, with books, funds, accommodation or, especially, with helping to fetch, sort, pack and send off those large quantities of books. Our thanks also to colleagues in Amathole District and Buffalo City municipalities who took on the allocation and distribution to schools.  We believe the project made a small but genuine contribution to the education of Eastern Cape children.

The article below is left in place for its now historical interest.

Since 1995 ACTSA Scotland has appealed for donated books, to be sorted, packed and sent to the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa for distribution there to school and other libraries. Nine 9-tonne container-loads of books have been sent so far,  the ninth having been despatched on Nelson Mandela Day, 18th July, 2012.  This is a very practical expression of the twinning link between Scotland and Eastern Cape.

The project's base is now at Hillhead Library in Byres Road, Glasgow, courtesy of Glasgow Libraries. This is where books are gathered, checked for condition and suitability, sorted and packed by age group and subject-matter, and then stored until another container-load is ready to go..

Help is always welcome, whether in the form of donated books in good condition (fiction or non-fiction, for all ages), of help with collecting, sorting and packing, or of funds to cover shipping to South Africa. The cost of shipping a container is some £3500, which is excellent value for the quantity of books involved but is real money that has to be found from donations. Vans also need to be hired from time to time to fetch donations of books within Scotland, and new books by, for example, African writers could be bought if funds allowed.

To help in any of these ways, please contact the ACTSA Scotland office at 52, St. Enoch Square, Glasgow G1 4AA. Tel: 0141 221 1276 (usually an answering machine). E-mail: Please do not contact Hillhead Library directly, or try to deliver books to St. Enoch Square (a small office that is not staffed).

Any cash donations should be sent to the ACTSA Scotland office, and would be very welcome as money for transport is always scarcer than books.


The Appeal arose from a conversation in 1995 between Mrs. Nosimo Balindlela, then the Eastern Cape MEC (Minister) for Education, Arts and Culture, and a small delegation from ACTSA Scotland about what practical steps could be taken to strengthen the twinning link established between Scotland and Eastern Cape. Mrs. Balindlela explained that only a tiny proportion of Eastern Cape's 6000 schools had libraries, that most children could not afford their own books, and that regular reading for pleasure was crucial to acquiring the fluency in English reading that was essential for children to take full advantage of the rest of their education.

The Book Appeal was therefore launched by ACTSA Scotland that year in conjunction with Material Aid Scotland, a project of the Balmore Trust whose premises in Airds Lane in Glasgow were used as the storage and sorting base. Initially concentrating on children's fiction and non-fiction, the Appeal was quickly extended to include books for adults since the need to stock adult libraries was also identified, and then to school text-books as resource material for teachers.

The first container was dispatched in 1997 by June Moshoeshoe, then Director of Libraries for Eastern Cape Province, and Glasgow Lord Provost Pat Lally. The second was sent in May 1999. At this point the project had to move from Airds Lane due to the Balmore Trust giving up its lease of the premises, and after a few months without a home was offered the use of a large room at the Mitchell Library by Glasgow City Council.

The third container was sent off from the Mitchell in November, 2002, by H.E. Lindiwe Mabuza, South African High Commissioner, and the project then moved again to its present base at Hillhead Library, since the room at the Mitchell was to be lost in the modernisation of the building. The fourth was seen off in April 2007 by STUC President Katrina Purcell from the annual Congress meeting in Glasgow, the fifth was sent in May 2008, and the sixth was dispatched on 18th July 2008, billed as a present for Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday on that day, by Glasgow's Lord Provost Bob Winter in a brief birthday ceremony in George Square. The seventh was sent off in April 2010, from Barrachnie Co-op. in Baillieston, Glasgow, which was kindly supplying storage space at the time,  the eighth in November 2011 from the same location, and the ninth from George Square on 18th July, 2012, to mark the inaugural Nelson Mandela International Day in Scotland  

The first two containers were sent to the Provincial Libraries service in King Williams Town, and the next four to Amathole District Municipality, the upper-tier local authority based in East London and covering a very large rural area as well as the city and some smaller towns. Amathole Mayor Sakkie Somyo undertook to distribute the books to school and other libraries throughout the District.  Buffalo City Municipality (which became an all-purpose metropolitan authority in 2011) has handled the reception and storage of the later consignments, and distributes the books in collaboration with Amathole DM.

Three days after that initial discussion with ACTSA Scotland in 1995, Nosimo Balindlela had a similar conversation with Denis Goldberg, a Rivonia trialist who had spent 22 years in prison for opposing apartheid and who was now running a small South Africa-oriented charity based in London and called Community HEART. As a result, Community HEART also established an appeal for books for South Africa, the "Book and 10 Pence Appeal", which became a major project in its own right. This gathers books from all over the United Kingdom and distributes them all over South Africa.

The two projects have co-operated through the years, especially over the paper-work and customs waivers relating to the shipping process, where Denis had particular expertise. In April 2002 it was agreed that the Scottish end of the "Book and 10 Pence Appeal" and ACTSA Scotland's Book Appeal would run as one project, though the two organisations retain their own separate identities and their other activities.

Denis Goldberg "retired" to South Africa in the summer of 2002, leaving Community HEART in the care of Isobel McVicar. The Community HEART office is at c/o UNISON, 6th Floor, Sunlight House, Quay St., Manchester M3 3JZ. Tel: 0161 254 7505. E-mail: