Covered in the press this week was the official opening of the Transformation Display at the SA Naval Museum in Simon’s Town. The display is designed to showcase the previously unrecognised contributions made by soldiers of colour through history.
Vice-Admiral Johannes Mudimu set the wheels of change in motion in 2005 when he became Chief of the Navy. Mudimu was the first black chief appointed and, at the time of his appointment, felt that the museum was not offering a balanced perspective of race and gender within the navy.
Lieutenant-Commander Leon Steyn, museum curator said, “The museum had a mainly white-dominated historic display, and although this represented a good history, it did not represent all the races who were part of the navy’s history.
“Back then, whites and coloureds were integrated when they were at sea, sharing each other’s bunks. It was sad because once they reached shore, they would have to go back to living apart because of apartheid’s rules and regulations.”
With the opening of this display the role of many people and events who contributed to the transformation of the SA Navy will receive the recognition that they deserve.
Steyn hopes that the new display will also open healthy discussions and debate regarding South Africa’s rich and varied naval history.