Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says South Africans should ensure that the remaining symbols of segregation are transformed.
The Minister said this on Friday at the commemoration of the centenary of Arque La Battaille, South Africa’s commemoration of all its nationals who perished in France during the First World War.
Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said the event recognised both South Africa’s history as well as the future of the Defence Force.
“It acknowledges that our country has come out of a history of divisions and conflict, and celebrates the progress we have made in forging unity and a common patriotism.
“In [memory] our countrymen, we have taken care to identify a historic moment in the life of the armed forces that best represents the values of patriotism, comradeship, valour and common sacrifice. It is these values that identify our nation’s ability to rise above our challenges of the past, to build a democratic and peaceful society, based on the respect for human rights for all.
“As we celebrate these brave South Africans and right the wrongs of the past, we should ensure that the transformation of all remaining symbols of segregation is achieved. In our transformation process, an area that has remained unchanged is the depiction of the role played by black South Africans in World War I,” she said.
She said it is necessary to ensure that the historical role played by black South Africans in France is accorded the importance it deserves.
“More than 21 000 black South Africans served in World War 1 (WW1) in France. They were enlisted as the South African Native Labour Contingent.
“However, the South African Native Labour Contingent has received hardly any attention in South African histories,” said the Minister.