A sizeable portion of the collection comprises publications issued by student organisations operating on the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Wits campuses. Noel Stott was a student at the UCT from 1978 to 1981, a period of political and social turmoil in South African society.
The Soweto students' uprising of 1976 had indelibly changed the political climate of South Africa, and students across the country were becoming increasingly militant. An ever-more desperate Apartheid regime attempted to maintain its stranglehold on the masses by invoking emergency powers, and employed its security forces to clamp down on so-called dissidents. The South African Defence Force (SADF) was embroiled in a war against the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) in what was then South West Africa (now Namibia), and was further involved in incursions into neighbouring Angola, in support of Jonas Savimbi's UNITA movement. "Preemptive strikes" into other frontline states were also launched by security forces against "enemies of the state". Internally, the SADF and South African Police (SAP) were deployed to maintain "order" in non-white townships; the atrocities and abuses committed by the security forces in the pursuit of this objective have been well documented elsewhere.
The SAP also targeted the so-called "liberal" South African universities, such as UCT, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), and Rhodes University. Student leaders were frequently targeted, detained, and banned, and student publications were subjected to scrutiny and banned whenever "subversive" material was published. During his student years, Noel collected a large body of the material published by student organisations at UCT, such as newspapers, leaflets, flyers, and pamphlets. This body of material is augmented by similar publications from Wits, donated by acquaintances who had been students there.
This material is significant in that the "student politics" they present highlight many of the issues of the day, such as then-president PW Botha's so-called reforms, military service (which was compulsory for white males at the time), police activity on campuses, government interference in education, the "Quota system", calls for solidarity with the masses, and so on.
The publications clearly illustrate the divisions between "moderate" student organisations and those that favoured the maintenance of the status quo and so-called "radical" organisations calling for mass action to effect change. On occasion, differences between organisations espousing these different views spilled over into violent campus clashes. Student politics on the "liberal" university campuses may not have been very "polished", but it was certainly very passionate!
Noel's involvement with organisations such as JODAC and FFF are represented in the collection. UDF newsletters and magazines, JODAC newsletters and magazines, as well as FFF publications demonstrate the efforts that were being made to draw whites into the democratic movement.
However, the bulk of the collection comprises materials collected as a result of Noel's skills as a librarian and his association with ecumenically oriented NGOs. A sizeable collection of newspapers, magazines and journals, from both Catholic and Protestant organisations within South Africa as well as abroad, combine to create a vivid picture of the vast network of organisations that were working to bring about a just and democratic South Africa (and elsewhere, such as in Namibia).
This is augmented by magazines and journal from the period that deal with more general issues, such as the economy, the arts, and the environment, to name but a few.