Udaba Olungaziwa nge SS Mendi

Lona ngunyaka we 100 selokhu kwenzeka inhlekelele yokucwila komkhumbi i-SS Mendi ngasogwini lolwandle lwase Isle of Wight lapho kwadlula emhlabeni abantu abalinganiselwa ku 650. Lena ngenye yezinhlekelele ezinkulu zolwandle ezenzeka emlandweni wamakhulu angamashumi amabili eminyaka (20th century) olwandle lwase UK, kodwa ambalwa abantu abaziyo ngalendaba. Abaningi bacabanga ukuthi kungenxa yokuthi ngobani ababegibele lomkhumbi ngesikhathi ucwila, yingakho indaba ye SS Mendi ingalutholanga udumo elufanele.

A group of SANLC men in France, circa 1917

Abasebenzi be-SANLC eFrance, ngo-1917

Lesitimela samanzi sasisetshenziswa njengesithuthi sabantu kodwa okwathi ngesikhathi seMpi Yokuqala Yomhlaba sabolekwa njengesempi. IBhrithane yazithola inengcindezi enkulu yokuthola abasebenzi emachwebeni aseFransi ngenxa yokungabikho kwemikhumbi eyenele. Lokhu kwakusho ukuthi imikhumbi kwakufanele ithululwe impahla ukuze iyosebenza futhi. Impendulo yabo yayilele ekutholeni abasebenzi abakhokhelwa kancane ababezotholakala eNingizimu Afrika nasemazweni ayecindezelwe yiBhrithane. Ngonyaka ka 1916, ngemuva kwesicelo seBhrithane sokuthola abasebenzi, uhulumeni waseNingizimu Afrika wasungula umthetho obizwa nge South African Native Labour Corps (SANLC). Eminyakeni emibili lomthetho usunguliwe, balinganiselwa ku 25 000 abantu abaqashwa.

An annual SS Mendi memorial service, Atteridgeville, South Africa

“SS Mendi Memorial Service”, eAtteridgeville

Angamakhulu ayisishiyagalombili namashumi amabili nantathu amalunga e-5th Battalion eSANLC ayegibele i-SS Mendi ngesikhathi icwila. Iningi lamadoda ayengakaze alubone ulwandle ngaphambi kwaloluhambo, bembalwa ababekwazi ukubhukuda okwaholela ekufeni kweningi labo, mhlaka 21 February 1917 lapho i-Darro, umkhumbi wokuthutha izimpahla weRoyal Mail Steam Packet Company ushayisa i-SS Mendi. Kwathatha imizulu engu 25 ukuthi lomkhumbi ucwile, wacwila nabantu baseNingizimu Afrika abangu 616 kanye nezisebenzi zasemkhunjini zaseBrithane ezingu 30. Okushiwoyo ukuthi i-Darro ayenzanga lutho ukusiza lamadoda, okwaholela ekutheni labo abangaminzanga ukuthi babulawe ukubanda kwamanzi.

Omunye umuntu owayekulomkhumbi nguMfundisi Isaac Dyobha, owayengumholi webandla, eyesishoshovu sepolitiki futhi nomkhankasi ovelele wokusungulwa kweNyuvesi yase Fort Hare. Inkulumo kaDyobha ayisho iyingqayizivele nanamuhla:

Thulani nizothe bantu bakithi, ngoba lokhu okwenzekayo yilokho ebenizele ukuthi kwenzeke. Nizofa! Yilokho ebenizele ukuzokwenza. Bafowethu sihamba uhambo lokufa. Mina njengeXhosa, ngithi nonke ningabafowethu amaZulu, amaSwazi, amaMpondo, abeSuthu, asife njengezelamani. Singamadodana e-Afrika. Memezani bafowethu! Nakuba basishiyisa izikhali zethu ekhaya, amaphimbo ethu asahlangene nemizimba yethu.

Two graves containing the bodies of eight SANLC men

Amathuna wamadoda we-SANLC

Inkulumo kaDyobha yokushiya izikhali isukela ekutheni uhulumeni waseNingizimu Afrika wavuma ukuhambisa lamadoda njengezisebenzi kuphela – benqatshelwa ukuthi banikwe izikhali. Ngemuva kwempi akekho noyedwa umuntu omnyama owayegibele iMendi noma ilunga le SANLC abathola indodo i-British War Medal. Lokhu kwakufanele kwenziwe uhulumeni wangalesosikhathi waseNingizimu Afrika. Njengengxenye yesikhumbuzo sekhulu leminyaka sokucwila kwe SS Mendi, izindodo zesikhumbuzo zokubahlonipha zanikezwa amalunga emindeni yawo.

Ifilimu ekhuluma ngamazwi okugcina kaMfundisi Dyobha I’Let Us Die Like Brothers ilandela impilo yomfana onguMxhosa, uSamuel lapho ebheka izimpilo zabantu abamnyama ababesemkhunjini wenhlekelele i-Mendi, nendlela ababephethwe ngayo kanye namagalelo okuzinikela kwabo.

Isithombe: Isihe se-www.theheritageportal.co.za, mg.co.za kanye ne-salegion.org.uk

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