Concealed World War Tragedy - the SS Mendi Disaster
This hub is part of a series called "Noteworthy trend of events in South Africa".
The SS Mendi
At 5:00 am on February 21st, 1917 - during the First World War - the formidable steamship, the SS Mendi, sank in the English Channel on route to France, killing 646 soldiers including 607 black South Africans who have served in the South African Native Labor Corps. “They were not allowed to carry weapons and were meant to work as laborers, rather than as fighting soldiers,” stressed President Zuma before laying a wreath at the Armed Forces Day celebrations in Durban.
The SS Mendi was a passenger ship, chartered by the UK Admiralty as a troopship. After colliding with a large cargo steamship, the Darro, it disappeared within less than half-an-hour into the freezing waters.
Oral history records that an interpreter, Isaac Williams Wauchope Dyobha - who had served as a Minister in the Congregational Native Church – calmed the panicked men by raising his arms aloft and crying out in a loud voice:
"Be quiet and calm, my countrymen. What is happening now is what you came to do...you are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers...Swazis, Pondos, Basotho...so let us die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war-cries, brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais in the kraal, our voices are left with our bodies."
The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, laid a wreath at Southampton's Hollybrook Cemetery, where the SS Mendi disaster was also commemorated.
The names of the SS Mendi's 646 victims appear at all memorials of the disaster.
The news that touched me the most during the last week of February 2017 was most certainly the commemoration of the SS Mendi disaster.
Controversial events in South Africa during the last week of February 2017
Trend of events in South Africa that will most certainly have serious repercussions in the future:
Violent xenophobic clashes erupted in Pretoria on Thursday, February 23rd. Houses of immigrants were set alight, their shops were looted and torched, roads were blocked, tires were burnt, stones were thrown, and on top of this a well-organized march against foreigners happens in spite of the Tshwane Metro Police Department's rejection of the organizer's application. President Zuma denies xenophobia. He called all of this a ‘march against crime’. According to the residents of almost all townships - where about 80% of the rich and middle-class and all poor blacks still live – the majority of drug dealers, illegal gun dealers, pimps, robbers and criminals are Nigerians, Somalians, Pakistanis, and Zimbabweans. The National Police Commissioner, however, said that there are just as many South Africans among those foreign outlaws. The xenophobic residents of townships also allege that immigrants steal their jobs. They justify mop justice with their conviction that police officers are on pimps, drug and gun dealers' payrolls, and that is why their complaints are being ignored. More than 130 people were arrested on Thursday alone, and, as I am publishing this hub on Sunday, people busy with xenophobic activities are still being arrested.
South Africa government’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) was declared unconstitutional and invalid
The High Court in Pretoria has ruled that the government’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court was unconstitutional and invalid. President Zuma was ordered to withdraw the government's notice of withdrawal. Opposition parties welcomed this ruling of the court.
Heavy rains have left a trail of disaster in many regions of SA. It has, however, also brought an end to the disastrous drought of the past years. (2016 was the lowest rainfall year since rainfall records began in 1904.) Dams are again full, rivers are breaking their banks, and consequently floods occurred. Only Cape Town (a winter-rainfall region) is still facing a crisis.
The former CEO of Eskom, Brian Molefe, was sworn in as an ANC Member of Parliament in spite of opposition parties’ disapproval based on the damning evidence that he had a corrupt relationship with the Gupta-family who allegedly captured SA by bribing ministers and CEO’s in order to obtain state contracts for the delivering of goods and services.
Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, who was named Business Leader of the Year 2016 by SA's top 100 companies, delivered his 2017 National Budget Speech on Wednesday. He announced an increase of personal taxes, as well as an increase of ‘sin taxes’ on alcohol and tobacco. He also added an additional levy on fuel (petrol). Tax on sugar is to be levied later this year South Africans are among the most heavily taxed people in the world!
While keeping the staff of a rhino orphanage hostage, rhino poachers mutilated two 18-month-old rhinos by removing their horns. One rhino died during the barbaric operation and the other had to be euthanized the next day. Rhino poaching is a serious issue in South Africa!
Last week, while I was on holiday, a dozen local and foreign banks were being accused of manipulating the price of SA's currency when selling and buying USA dollars. According to the Competition Commission these banks had colluded to co-ordinate trading in the rand and the US dollar using an instant chat room called ZAR Domination. This is a very serious matter, and the CC is "seeking an order declaring that the Bank of America Merrill Lynch International Limited‚ BNP Paribas‚ JP Morgan Chase & Co‚ JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A‚ Investec Ltd‚ Standard New York Securities Inc.‚ HSBC Bank Plc‚ Standard Chartered Bank‚ Credit Suisse Group; Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd‚ Commerzbank AG; Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited‚ Nomura International Plc.‚ Macquarie Bank Limited are liable for the payment of an administrative penalty equal to 10% of their annual turnover".
Opinion of an owfma-sa
Local and international news are overwhelming, leaving me with an urge to become a hermit in Shangri-la where peace and tranquility reign. At the same time, or rather after an hour’s abstinence, I need another shot of news.
Being addicted to news is, for sure, as serious and bad as any other addiction!
"News is annoying, repetitive, depressing, largely useless and, in the digital world, omnipresent," said journalist Chis Moss. "The myriad cocktails of language and tone, layout and presentation, image and voice that we call the news – is purposely designed to generate an addiction..."
"... there is “an unrelenting negativity in the mainstream news agenda”, and an obsession with violent crime, human accident, misfortune and disaster... Isn’t it obvious to all that only catastrophic news can prompt the warm rush of schadenfreude, which is its own drug," - observed Professor Charlie Beckett "In this way, news is like fast food, sating us quickly and then leaving us wanting more, or something else. Nothing connects, nothing is in-depth, nothing is fulfilling."
The aging Thomas Jefferson expressed regret that he had wasted so much time reading newspapers. "There is nothing novel about the idea that the news is addictive," he said, and he referred to Schopenhauer who had observed that there’s something more painful than anxiety, and that is BOREDOM. Anxiety is a cure for boredom, and news provides that drama, excitement and anxiety needed by people who are prone to boredom.
Personally, I know that boredom encourages an obsession with Self, and this is what I am subconsciously trying to avoid.
Although I miss the time in my life when I was not at all interested in anything that went on beyond the boundaries of my personal zone - simply because I was too busy raising children and serving a husband and a community - I now need to get nauseous because the ANC-government keeps on wiping their a#s@s off the opinions of their critics, and even of anti-Zumas in their own midst. Only a small core with Jacob Zuma in the center seems to make all the decisions – like withdrawing from the International Criminal Court, and appointing a person with a suspicious reputation as a minister. Thank heavens South Africa’s courts are manned by highly intelligent and respected judges who stick to the laws and the Constitution come hell or high water. It is, however, ad nauseam sad that SA's courts have to keep SA's government in line, and that tax-money, which could be applied to something more essential such as education, infrastructure, health, and housing, is being used to pay the government's legal costs.
I need to become sick with sorrow because heartless, barbaric criminals harm and kill people and animals as far as they go, and sick with disgust because hate and ignorance turns people into savages. I need to cry my heart out because horrible things have happened, and are still happening to good people, while horror seems to encourage and strengthen the bad and the ugly.
I need this torturing as it is my way of escaping from the little jackals in my personal zone – these ailments and pains that come with age, and these regrets because I didn't manage to become stinking rich in order to travel from town to town and country to country.
By the way, an owfma-sa is an ordinary white female middle-aged South African.