South Africa’s ‘worst’ maritime disaster – the sinking of the S.S Mendi – relived at the 2017 World Maritime Day celebrations in Pondoland

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Pretoria: 03 October 2017

The staging of this year’s World Maritime Day celebrations at the Wild Coast town of Port St Johns in the O.R Tambo District Municipality of the Eastern Cape province, by some accounts, arguably proved its worth beyond the simple recognition of the region as among South Africa’s undeserving highly underdeveloped areas, yet with direct access to 800 km of ocean space.

 

By design, the event on Wednesday (27 September), the first of two days of celebration, provided an opportunity for the AmaMpondo clan to also formally commemorate the 100th year of the sinking of the S.S Mendi – a 4000 ton British steamship that perished off the English Channel in 1917 along with just over 600 black South Africans soldiers, and dozens of whom were from the O.R Tambo District Municipality.

PrintAccording to historical record, among those who perished during the sinking of SS Mendi were AmaMpondo chiefs Hendry Bokleni, Dokoda, Richard Ndamase, Mxonywa Bangani and Mongameli, and the Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha.

The O.R Tambo district municipality settled along the Eastern Cape’s coastline is named after one of South Africa’s most famous liberation struggle icons and former president of the African National Congress, the late Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo who – along with Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela – was born in Mbizana and whose political contribution to the country’s liberation is also being celebrated in the country throughout 2017.

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S.S Mendi Troopship Tragedy film  creater and narrator, Mr Mzwanele ‘Zwai’ Mgijima of Port Elizabeth (Standing) addressing mostly high school pupils and their teachers about the making the film, S.S Mendi Troopship, at World Maritime Day 2017 celebration event on Wednesday, 27 September 2017, in Port St Johns that was also dedicated to the memory of the sinking of the S.S Mendi.

At last Wednesday’s World Maritime Day event staged at Port St Johns’ golf course, in a uniquely refreshing, educational and entertainingly fun way, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) through its Maritime Heritage project, brought to life the tragic sinking of the S.S Mendi a century ago this year via a docu-drama film –  Troopship Tragedy – that was presented by its creator, researcher and narrator; Mr Mzwanele ‘Zwai’ Mgijima of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

The almost hour long movie’s production in 2015 was directed by Marion Edmunds.

DSC_1082 (3)For his very presence at the event, Mr Mgijima, a stage actor and storyteller who, during production of the film, traveled from the rural O. R Tambo District Municipality area to England to find the sunken S.S Mendi and bring back to South Africa the spirits of the SA Native Labour Contingent’s members who perished therein, was as much a source of amazement and delight for the approximately 500 school learners and teachers at the event as was the film presentation itself.

The World Maritime Day event, an annual celebration driven by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was staged in Port St Johns this year through a collaborative effort involving government departments including Transport, Tourism, Basic Education, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government and SAMSA; to also observe the centenaries of the sinking of the S.S Mendi, and O.R Tambo’s birth (were he alive this year).

 

The inclusion of a maritime heritage aspect followed to last year’s very successful inauguration of the SAMSA Maritime Heritage Project during the 38th World Maritime Day celebrations held at the Xhariep Dam in the Free State, in collaboration with  the South African National Heritage Council.

Remarking during last Thursday’s event, Mr Mgijima said: “I hastened to say yes to the invitation because I was going to interact with learners from local schools when watching the film, the SS Mendi Troopship Tragedy”.

“To me”, he said, “this was knowledge dissemination in real time as the film was researched and shot in Pondoland. That, for me, was like going back to the source!

 

“What humbled me most,” said Mr Mgijima, “was the fact that a group of learners and their teachers came back with their lunch packs to watch the film: they never touched their food while watching it!”

“’I teach them about the Mendi – their forgotten history’ a voice from their teacher.

“It was all silent during the viewing of the film. A dream realized by me that the history has been told through water and land,” concluded Mr Mgijima.

*The South African Maritime Safety Authority has a copy of the movie for its archives.

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In ’67 minutes’, SAMSA spreads warmth and care to kids and grannies in 2017 in the spirit of Nelson Mandela!

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Some 15 of hundreds of elderly people and small children across South Africa who this year received a gift of a warm winter blanket each from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) as part of its corporate social investment linked to celebrations of the Nelson Mandela Day worldwide.

Pretoria: 10 August 2017

The 2017 winter season in the southern hemisphere may be gently yet resolutely winding down in keeping with its own stubborn schedule, and with the process, as always, the emergence of a welcome change towards warmer weather conditions.

However, it will be the end of a wintry chill in 2017 that will be remembered fondly by no less than 700 elderly people and children across South Africa who in the year received a gift of very warm blankets from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) as a gesture of goodwill in celebrating the Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18.

IMG_1086SAMSA has keenly participated in the global annual event locally to honour the South African statesman since its launch by the United Nations Assembly about a decade ago.

In 2017, once again SAMSA involved its staff in bringing relief to the communities in which it operates through its ‘CHANGE MAKERS’ initiative launched in 2015 to encourage employee voluntarism in community outreach projects.

Through the SAMSA Change Makers initiative, employees of the organization across the country are encouraged to identify communities or segments thereof that may receive assistance to meet needs in their respective regions.

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It was a day of joy for the little ones after receiving warm winter blankets from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in July in celebration of the Nelson Mandela International Day held annually since a decade ago

In 2017, rural villages with predominantly elderly people in Qumbu in the Eastern Cape were chosen for the main event and during which some 150 grannies and grandpas were gifted with the warm winter blankets.

The rest of the blankets were shared with communities identified by staff in regions in which the organization operates, from Durban on the Indian through to Saldahna Bay on the west coast.

For the main event, the choice of Qumbu, and precisely the Tsitsa Falls, was partly to align the Corporate Social Investment-driven event with the rest of SAMSA’s maritime sector public awareness campaigns and social development projects currently underway in the Eastern Cape province and whose focus currently is on the O.R Tambo District municipality encompassing Mbizana, Qumbu and Port St Johns.

They encompass marine tourism in two streams, youth skills development and tourism facilities.

SAMSA hosted this year’s International Day of the Seafarer in Mbizana, with Port St Johns also scheduled by the Department of Transport (under which SAMSA falls) as the host for this year’s celebration of the World Maritime Day in the week up to September 28.

20170530_122040Mbizana is the birthplace of the late ANC president, Oliver Reginald Tambo and whose national centennial celebrations are ongoing this year in honour of his immense contribution to South Africa’s liberation struggle.

On July 18, in the neighbhouring town of Qumbu, in honour of yet another liberation stalwart and global statesman, Nelson Mandela; SAMSA hosted no less 150 elderly people, male and female, to present them with warm winter blankets.

According to SAMSA, the Tsitsa Falls on the Tsitsa river was chosen as the venue for the event also partly to indicate an intention to earmark and profile the area’s nature beauty spot for mapping into the country marine tourism development initiatives under the Operation Phakisa (Ocean’s Economy) national campaign launched in 2014.

“The theme this year was “Action against Poverty” in line with the overarching theme of Take Action, Inspire Change and Make every day Mandela Day concept. Interestingly and ironic in a way, was that among the 150 guests, the oldest person was 98 years old and it was the first time she was visiting the Tsitsa Falls !” said SAMSA

The criteria for selecting recipients of the 700 blankets was fairly simple; recipients had to be from previously disadvantage backgrounds, or homeless individuals, orphanages, the elderly (given first preference) or child headed households, or widows and or widowers.

People had fun!

For more pics of the event countrywide, Click Here and stroll down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Immense global economic role of seafarers greatly underrated: SAMSA

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Pretoria: 27 June 2017

An immense economic contribution made by a ‘handful’ of seafarers  in enabling seamless operations in global trade and the general world economy continues to enjoy less public recognition than it should, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

The apparent concern emerged at the weekend as South Africa joined the rest of the world in marking the annual international Day of the Seafarer that fell on Sunday (June 25) in recognition of the group of sailors estimated at about 1.5-million worldwide.

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Nomlacu village in Mbizana, the venue of this year’s South Africa celebrations of the international Day of the Seafarer organized jointly by the Department of Transport and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

The country’s event arranged through the Department of Transport and SAMSA and themed #SeafarersMatter, was staged at the Nomlacu village of Mbizana, some 65 kilometers inland northwest of the Indian Ocean, in the eastern region of the Eastern Cape Province.

Addressing about 700 guests, among them some 400 high school children bussed in from a number of schools in the district, as well as about half-a-dozen seafarers based in the port city of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal; Mr Sobantu Tilayi, Chief Operating Officer of SAMSA said seafarers worldwide  just did not seem to garner any public recognition for their massive contribution into global trade and economic development generally.

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Scores of Mbizana region high school pupils that attended South Africa’s celebration of the international Day of the Seafarer on Sunday

And this was despite the 25th day of June having been marked by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as a day of global recognition for seafarers since seven years ago.

The purpose, according to the IMO, is to “recognize the unique contribution made by seafarers all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole.”

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Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Chief Operations Officer, South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

On Sunday, Mr Tilayi said: “I have argued that seafarers are the most under-celebrated careers, second to teachers. They are the most under-celebrated careers yet these people enable us to live life as we now know it.”

Addressing himself mostly to the youth present, Mr Tilayi outlined the nature and history of the South Africa’s maritime sector, the various careers currently available to choose from, as well as related socio-economic matters.

Mr Tilayi also explained the reasoning behind the staging of the otherwise seashore oriented activity in an inland rural location.

He described it as both about extending awareness of maritime sector careers to all South Africans regardless of location, but also to honour the birthplace of former African National Congress (ANC) president, Mr Oliver, Reginald Tambo in line with the country’s current year-long celebration of the liberation struggle stalwart.

For an edited version of Mr Tilayi’s 30 minutes address (it lasts about six minutes!) please Click Here 

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Liberation struggle veteran and former ANC’s Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK) senior official, General Zolile Nqose.

A lecture on O.R Tambo was delivered by one of his fellow UMkhonto WeSizwe (ANC’s armed struggle wing), General Zolile Nqose

Sailors nod for enhanced maritime careers awareness campaign

Meanwhile, half-a-dozen South African seafarers who attended the event were most impressed with the choice of this year’s Day of the Seafarer event at Mbizana, as in their view, sought to ensure that all youths in South Africa got real time exposure to maritime sector careers from professionals in the field they could easily identify with.

This blog, The 10th Province spoke to two of them, Mr Mnqobi Msane and Miss Sthabile Khambule, and below are clips of their views on this and related matters.

(For Mr Msane, Click Here and for Ms Khambule, Click Here

Education authority excited about his region’s involvement in maritime sector developments

This blog also solicited the views of a local senior provincial education official about his impression of the event held on Sunday. Mr Vuyani Mathwasa, said he was most impressed by the progressive moves towards incorporating his district along the Indian Ocean into the country’s Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) program.

Port St Johns and adjacent areas along the Eastern Cape’s coastline – the country’s second longest by province – would soon see skills development as well as beach and small vessel harbour infrastructure either installed or upgraded, he said.

To listen to Mr Matshwasa, Chief Education Specialist for the O.R Tambo Ocean District region, Click Here

Meanwhile at the weekend, the IMO also issued video message on the Day of the Seafarer 2017 event,  which was also shared in full at the South African event in Mbizana.

 

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Eastern Cape province to host Seafarers Day 2017 celebrations

Cadets on board South Africa’s dedicated training vessel, the SA Agulhas

Pretoria: June 20, 2017:

The Eastern Cape, South Africa’s 2nd largest province by coastline along the Indian Ocean, will be the venue for this year’s local celebrations of the international Seafarers Day on Sunday, June 25.

The Department of Transport (DoT) together with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) have confirmed that the annual event focused on the crucial role seafarers worldwide play in the management of seagoing transport, will be staged at Mbizana in the Eastern Cape, this partly to also honor the country’s current year-long celebrations of the O.R Tambo centennial.

This year’s logo of the international Seafarers Day on June 25

Driven by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) together with partner countries including South Africa, this year’s Seafarers Day celebration theme is; “#SeafarersMatter” .

According to the IMO, the theme is intended as a campaign to engage people responsible for the world’s ports and seafarer centres to “demonstrate how much seafarers matter to them by featuring great initiatives that support and promote seafarer welfare.

“These efforts”, says the IMO; “are presented on a new virtual world map, which showcases best practices and helps celebrate seafarers.”

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Port St Johns coastline, Eastern Cape

In South Africa, the DoT and SAMSA together with the Eastern Cape provincial government will use the event to not only celebrate seafarers worldwide to spread greater public awareness both about the country’s maritime economic sector, as well as awareness about the role of seafarers in that space, but will also seek to connect with communities in the eastern part of the Eastern Cape with a view to establishing community projects to enhance people’s skills for meaningful participation in the sector of the economy.

Towards this end, the parties will launch a series of maritime sector skills development initiatives including the training of about 150 youths in the Port St Johns, Mbizana and adjacent towns in deep sea diving, sea rescue and related skills.

The programme will also see others receive training in basic seafarer skills that will allow them to be placed on cruise vessels around the world.

IMG_5076 (2)The Seafers’ Day celebrations at Mbizana are scheduled to also feature a dozen or so sailors from South Africa including cadets currently undergoing training under the country national cadets development programme.

According to the programme for Sunday, aspects of the country’s maritime heritage as well marine and coastal tourism will also feature as some of the components of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) ocean growth project.

Tributes will also be made to former African National Congress president, the late Oliver Reginald Tambo in whose area of birth the Seafarers Day celebrations will be held at the weekend.

Meanwhile, it was also formally confirmed this week that South Africa will be the host venue for the IMO’s 2020 World Maritime Day Conference by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Assembly in 2020.

More about this Here