On the Sunday closest to 21 February members of foreign diplomatic corps, South African National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel, veterans, University of Cape Town (UCT) staff and students pay tribute to the men of the SS Mendi at a parade on Lower Campus.
This year the parade was attended by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Ian Nielsen, and the service conducted by Padre Tony Bethke. Both indicated that the Mendi memorial had become a firm fixture on the annual Cape Town calendar.
Senior members of the SANDF and Department on Veteran affairs attended as did representatives of the Cape Garrison Artillery, Cape Town Highlanders, Cape Town Rifles, SA Navy and a host of other units added colour to the ceremony. The SA Army band provided the music whilst the Cape Town Highlanders in their kilts provided the guard on Honour and sentries.
Capt (SAN) Marcus Rammultoa (Senior Staff Officer Reserves), a UCT Alumni and Glenres student, with Olwetu Luvaso, Administrative Clerk to Defence Reserves Provincial Office Cape Town represented the Reserves.
Hilary Page (82), a descendant of Lt Samuel Emslie, who recruited many of the South African Native Labour Contingent (SANLC) in the Eastern Cape and drowned that day, was also in attendance to pay her tributes to her grandfather and all the men.
Student involvement over the years has increased with representation and participation from all the Lower Campus residences – Baxter Hall, Graca Machel Hall, Kopano, Leo Marquard Hall and Tugwell Hall. The Wardens and staff have assisted in ensuring that the tradition is passed on annually and that wreaths are laid in memory of the Mendi. Student leaders are thereby exposed to their civic duties.
The event is a highlight for those UCT students who are either members of the SANDF or the Reserves who studying at UCT. This year Candidate Officer Thabang Sebetoane, a Groote Schuur Mansions student, swopped his engineering overalls for his South African Airforce (SAAF) uniform. These opportunities are rare on campus and enable the SANDF to positively market themselves and opportunities available to students.
This year Ms Amanzi UCT, Sarina Mpharalala, a 3rd year Commerce and Woolsack student, attended the commemoration and laid a unique wreath – sea water from the Atlantic Ocean to reunite the memorial with the ocean. She is driving the student social media campaign to save water in residences.