The apparent snubbing and withdrawal of financial assistance to an SAS Mendi memorial service in Cape Town has drawn an outraged reaction from Peter Dickens, publisher of the South African contemporary military history site The Observation Post.
He was reacting to a weekend newspaper report which said the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) would no longer support the Gunners Association commemoration ceremony at the SS Mendi memorial in Cape Town. DMV spokesman Mbulelo Musi reportedly told the Sunday Times “we cannot be encouraging an approach that says we still belong to an imperial past”.
“In a democratic dispensation, we can’t be encouraging an approach that says we still belong to an imperial past. It cannot be, for it defeats the purpose of what our democratic government stands for, which is reconciliation, social cohesion and nation building.” Musi said both world wars were “wars of colonialism” that had little to do with South Africa’s democratic freedom. “Colonialism was by nature divisive — it is the opposite of what we stand for as South Africans post-’94,” Musi said. “We must be sensitive to these matters.” Musi said the department would take part in Armed Forces Day “in the spirit of trying to say we are all together. It is unfortunate that people move outside the efforts of the nation.”
Dickens said the report made for “grim and sad reading for any statutory force victim”.
“It’s utterly unacceptable and the DNV needs to be held account by the veterans fraternity they serve for their revolutionist history which discredits all military service and sacrifice of South African statutory forces pre-1994, including those of the SS Mendi.
“In addition, wholesale discrediting of the Gunners Association because of ‘colonial’ origins has ramifications for all veteran associations under the Council of Military Veterans (CMVO) in South Africa, including the South African Legion and the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTHs) whose origins date back to World War 1.”
Dickens point out he as president of the South African Legion England branch was “assured the South African Legion of Military Veterans, as a charity organisation concerned with Remembrance will continue to remember the fallen of all South African military personnel irrespective of race, gender or historical epoch and irrespective of the views presented by South Africa’s Department of Veterans in the article”.
He maintains the time has come for South Africans to “truly evaluate our values”.
“The South Africans lost on the SS Mendi suffered the indignity of South African ‘white’ politicians once. It is simply inconceivable they may suffer the same indignity again – only this time done by the African National Congress and its government organs.”