Stichting Mendi foundation

Mendi News & Events

The tragic sinking of the SS Mendi and the loss of more than 600 South Africans on 21 February 1917, may sound as if it happened a very long time ago, but the story of the men on the SS Mendi was never fully told at the time. The relatives of these men who died after the sinking of their ship received no official notice, compensation or acknowledgement for their contribution. Until the start of this century, the South African Native Labour Contingent hardly received any mention at all in South African histories and the story of what happened on the SS Mendi on that fateful day is almost unknown to the rest of the world.

It is for this reason that the Mendi Foundation is hard at work to find the relatives of the servicemen buried in the Noordwijk General Cemetery in the Netherlands and bring them to the graves of their (great) grandfathers. In order to fund the flights and accommodation of the relatives from South Africa to the Netherlands, the Mendi Foundation is now looking for sponsorships and will also be hosting a series of fundraising events for these and other long-term goals, raising awareness about this tragic chapter in South Africa’s history through the making of a documentary and book. The film will be broadcast on television and screened at schools.

In the news

News about the SS Mendi through the ages

The SS Mendi in recent news reports and interviews

Raising Private Mtolo

Private Mtolo’s body drifted on the currents for 67 days before washing up on Dutch shores on the 29 of April, 1917. Following tips released by Mendi Foundation historian, Mark Sijlmans, South African journalist for The Times, Shaun Smillie, caught up with the relatives of Private Sikaniso Mtolo in Richmond, South Africa. Smillie travels to the ancestral home of Private Sikaniso Mtolo and tells us about the emotional encounter in this newspaper article published on 22 February 2016.

The grandson of Private Sikaniso Mtolo, Gayeni Mtolo at his home in Richmond. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya

In Raising Private Mtolo Part 2, South African journalist Shaun Smillie’s report in The Times, tells us how the unexpected news about their grandfather who drowned with the sinking of the SS Mendi unleashed a series of disturbing events for the Mtolo family. They wanted to bring their patriarch home, but exhumation was out of the question as Sikaniso Mtolo is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave.

On 23 February 2016, Private Sikaniso Mtolo’s story was told in Dutch in the local regional newspaper, Duin- en Bollenstreek: Eerherstel voor Zuid-Afrikaanse oorlogsslachtoffers

Members of the South African Native Labour Corps as featured in the article published in the Duin- en Bollenstreek 

Scheepsramp SS Mendi: Mtolo’s geest dwaalt nog altijd rond by Ingrid Glorie.

Since the establishment of the Mendi Foundation, Noordwijk historian Mark Sijlmans has been interviewed by yet another Dutch news forum. Here is the article in Dutch in the Zuid-Afrika Spectrum, published in February 2019.

Interviews with Mendi Foundation historian, Mark Sijlmans by Ingrid Glorie in Dutch:



Commemorations and events

The sinking of the SS Mendi commemorated at the Noordwijk General Cemetery in the Netherlands on 21 February 2019

21 February 2019

The South African Embassy of the Netherlands commemorates the more than 600 soldiers of the 5th Battalion of the South African Native Labour Contingent who paid the supreme sacrifice that others might live in peace.

Location: Noordwijk General Cemetery

Time: 11.00