Joburg gents should emulate the 646 men – most of them South African black soldiers – who bravely died when the ship SS Mendi sank in the English Channel during World War I if the country is to be saved from the escalating scourge of gender-based violence.
This was said by City of Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development Cllr Nonhlanhla Sifumba at Imbizo Yamadoda (men’s gathering).
The event was a joint venture between the City and a women’s group, Soul Inspiration, to address the ongoing spate of violence against women and children.
It has been reported in history books that, as the SS Mendi sank after it was struck by a larger vessel one dark morning in February 1917, the doomed men remained calm in the face of their impending death. They bravely sang songs of courage and danced until their demise.
“The SS Mendi tragedy should be an inspiration to every man; the nation depends on you for its protection and not its destruction,” she told the gathering.
Sifumba said although the tragedy took place 100 years ago, the whole world was still talking about the bravery of those men. She said today’s men had become tormentors of their own families and communities. “What stories will be told to your children about you? The stories we hear every day on our radios, television sets and social media platforms are not those of heroes similar to those who perished on the SS Mendi,” she said.
She called on the men to change their ways and become defenders of their women, children, families and communities.
“I hope as you all sit here today you are starting to think of ways you can actively work towards making our society better,” she said.
Sifumba said her department would hold similar gatherings as gender-based violence was deeply rooted. She said men must know that women needed their warmth and protection.
“We need more of the SS Mendi men. We need more of the Mandla Hlatshwayos of this world,” she said.
Hlatshwayo, a Soweto radio and TV personality, was murdered in Soweto earlier this year while trying to rescue two women from thugs.
Celebrated TV actor Sello Maake ka Ncube told the gathering that he was raised by a stepfather. “But he never made me feel like I was not his child,” he said.