Ntebo Mokobo -Tuesday 12 July 2016 19:27

 

President Jacob Zuma says the refurbished Delville Wood Memorial in France represents reconciliation and the restoration of the dignity of black people. He was speaking at the centenary commemoration to honour thousands of South African soldiers who died in the First World War in France between 1914 and 1918.

Over 3 000 white South African (SA) soldiers died in four days of fighting at Delville Wood. However, thousands of black soldiers served as non-combatants in the SA Native Labour Corps. But their participation and role was never recognised and they were buried at a different site from their white counterparts. The Delville Wood Memorial is now a symbol of all South Africans with the black soldiers also recognised. President Zuma says this will go a long way in building reconciliation.

The president says re-internment of black soldiers in the Delville Wood Memorial should be seen as a form of true reconciliation and not a way of excluding other races. “The transformation of the Deville Wood Memorial represents a powerful message of reconciliation and provides some redress that will further consolidate the diversity of our South African nation. The transformation of the Delville Wood Memorial was therefore necessary to ensure that it would reflect an objective, just and authentic South African military history and honours all South African regardless of race, creed or rank.”

The president also unveiled the wall of remembrance and re-opened the Delville Wood Museum, and standing tall in the museum is a tree that survived the six days of bombing during the Great War. President Zuma says the soldiers may be gone, but their ideals stand tall like that tree. The event concludes President Zuma’s two-day state visit to France. He held talks with his counterpart Francois Hollande and witnessed the signing of at least four agreements.