Sharpeville and SS Mendi named new heritage sites


The South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) has announced the addition of four new national heritage sites.

SAHRA announced that three sites commemorating the 1960 Sharpeville massacre and a memorial to the SS Mendi have been added to the list of national heritage sites in South Africa.

The sites in Sharpeville include the police station and the memorial garden and the graves of the 69 people who lost their lives in the massacre in the Phelindaba Cemetery.

The Sharpeville massacre occurred on March 21 1960, when police opened fire on a peaceful march organized by the Pan Africanist Congress to protest the repressive pass laws. Marches had also been organized for Langa in Cape Town. Today the date is commemorated as Human Rights Day.

The SS Mendi memorial is situated at the University of Cape Town’s sports fields in Rosebank‚ Cape Town. The memorial is for the men of the 5th Battalion of the South African Native Labour Corps. The sports field, formerly known as the Rosebank showgrounds, was chosen as the memorial site as it was the national assembly camp and depot for the Native Labour Corps during World War I. It was the place where soldiers assembled, received their kit and basic training.

On February 21 1917, a ship collided with the Mendi just off the coast of the Isle of Wight, leading to the death of 30 crew and 607 Black soldiers.

Next year, 2017, marks the centenary of the tragedy and the Royal Navy and South African Navy have announced joint activities to commemorate what is considered to be one of the worst disasters in Commonwealth history and remember the often neglected role that Black South African soldiers played in World War I.

The declarations are listed in the Government Gazette published by the Department of Arts and Culture on Friday.