Black soldier reburied with white WWI comrades

2014-07-06 20:00


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Longueval - A black South African soldier who died nearly a century ago during World War I was on Sunday reburied alongside 600 of his white compatriots at the South African war memorial in northern France.

Private Myengwa Beleza was one of the first black South African soldiers to be killed in France during the 1914-1918 war.

He was among some 25 000 other black South Africans who had volunteered to serve as part of the Native Labour Corps.

Beleza died on 27 November 1916 and was buried in a civilian cemetery at the port city of Le Havre as the government did not allow black soldiers to be buried at the memorial.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was among some 250 people who attended the ceremony at the Delville Wood memorial near the scene of a World War I battle in which many South African soldiers perished.

Beleza becomes the first black to be buried at the memorial - which was unveiled in 1926 - after his remains were exhumed on 4 June in a process organised by the South African embassy in France.

"The reinterment process is part of government efforts to restore the dignity particularly of those black South Africans who made an immense contribution towards world peace," Ramaphosa's spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said.

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