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2008-10-29: Mayor Masondo honours military heroes on Remembrance Sunday

SOUTH Africa's military heroes will again be honoured at the annual Remembrance Sunday event to be held at the Cenotaph in Johannesburg on 9 November.

The Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Councillor Amos Masondo will lead a group of dignitaries, including senior South African National Defence Force (SANDF) officials, ex-service organisations and diplomatic representatives in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph in Harrison Street.

National Remembrance Sunday is an annual event honouring all South Africans who made the supreme sacrifice for their country in wars and conflict, including the struggle for democracy. It is a tradition dating back to end of the First World War and is commemorated across the world on the closest Sunday to 11 November – remembering the date in 1919 when the Armistice to end the war was signed.

In South Africa the scope of the event has been broadened to include combatants from liberation movements who participated in the struggle for freedom and democracy together with the statutory forces who were involved in the two world wars.

In 2002 Mayor Masondo unveiled an inscription at the Cenotaph to honour all military heroes and victims of war. The inscription reads: "The City of Johannesburg honours all those who made the supreme sacrifice in all wars, battles and armed struggles for freedom, democracy and peace in South Africa".

For the 2008 ceremony, focus will be on South Africans who participated in the Battle of Square Hill, a landmark event during the First World War.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of Battle of Square Hill in Palestine (as the Middle East was then known) when South African soldiers of the Cape Corps distinguished themselves against Turkish forces loyal to Germany. Casualties of Cape Corps soldiers at Square Hill included 51 who were killed and 101 wounded.

In addition, this year marks the 90th Anniversary of the end of the First World War on Armistice Day. South African heroes in the First World War were drawn from all sections of the population. Of the 12 452 South African servicemen who died in the War, 3 901 were African, Indian or coloured.

The Remembrance Sunday event will open with a march-past by military bands, the SANDF and military veterans. This will be followed by an interfaith religious service to be led by members of different religious communities reflecting the diversity of South Africa.

The religious service will start at 14h00 and be led by Rev. Dr. Mongezi Guma, the Chairperson of the Commission for Religious, Linguistic and Cultural Rights.

The National Remembrance Sunday Service has been held at the Cenotaph since the inception of the War Memorial in 1926. The Cenotaph was first inaugurated as a war memorial to South Africans, who fell in World War One, 1914–1918. Inscriptions to those who died in World War Two were added in 1947.

Remembrance Sunday will be preceded on Saturday 8 November by a Freedom and Reconciliation Parade through the streets of Soweto.