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Media Invitation – Honoring the Heroes of the Oceans

29 October 2015 –

AMSA will host veterans of the struggle who made a brazen attempt to enter South Africa through the sea on board the Aventura in the 70s. Four decades later the names of the stalwarts will be inscribed on the Agulhas vessel to commemorate their contribution to maritime heritage as part of an initiative by the South African Maritime Safety Authority.

Cape Town, October 29, 2015 – Members of the media are invited to commemorate and pay homage to the heroes of the country’s democratic struggle who in the early 70s made a brazen and brave effort to infiltrate South Africa using a Soviet- owned vessel, The Aventura.

The secretive mission on the Aventura was cancelled after the vessel was suspected to be sabotaged. Most of those on the vessel where exile activists living in Eastern Europe and other parts of Africa who were longing to return home. The vessel was bound for the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal but the mission was abandoned just outside Somalia. The MK veterans were supported by their Soviet Union supporters.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority is hosting the stalwarts and veterans at two separate events in Cape Town on the weekend of October 31 and November 1. The veterans include Fanele Mbali, Rankabele Cholo, Sandile Sijake, Zolile Nqose and Eric “Stalin” Mtshali. The commemoration aptly viewed as “Aventura Veterans Commemoration” is a stark reminder of the contribution many exiles have played for the democratisation of South Africa. Some of these exiles have since been deceased but the Aventura cadres who were part of the Luthuli detachment have never forgotten their brazen attempt to stride into South Africa by sea.

Events details are as follows:

EVENT 1: October 31, 2015
Maritime Heritage Roundtable on board the SA Agulhas
Time: 2-4pm
Venue: Quay 8– Victoria/Alfred Waterfront, SA Agulhas is berthed there
Event is expected to last until noon.

EVENT 2: November 1, 2015
Aventura Naval Attack Mission Veterans Pilgrimage To Robben Island
Time: 9 am – 1 pm
Venue: Robben Island
Please note media to meet at the Robben Island Museum
Event is expected to last until noon. Please supply your ID numbers when sending your RSVP.

On Saturday the veterans will visit the SA Agulhas, berthed at Quay 500 where they would do a walk about and hold a Maritime Heritage Round Table. A special honor of inscriptions of their names on the Agulhas vessel will take place.

On November 1 they will go to Robben Island on November 1 where they would carry out a visit. For some of the veterans who were later imprisoned at the prison this would be their first trip since their release.

Many of these veterans are very frail and old but are quickly energised by memories of their Aventura expedition. None were sailors or had any experience at sea but having been desperate to slip into South Africa, they braved the heavy seas.

Among the veterans is Durban grandfather Eric Mtshali who due to ill health is unable to travel to Cape Town this weekend for the commemoration but congratulated SAMSA on its efforts to preserve the memory of the Aventura expedition as part of maritime heritage.

“Maritime heritage is important. The attempt to infiltrate the country with Aventura is epic. We failed because we were sabotaged. But it was a reminder that maritime was a key factor for the democratisation of our country,” said Mtshali.

He laughs loudly when he relates the story. “I was in exile since 1962. I knew only how to protest and was involved in the armed struggle. I could not even swim when I was on the Aventura. We realised Cubans were able to get victory through the sea, and we thought we could do this also. We had some very elementary training in the Black Sea. Ready or not we started the expedition. When we got to Somalia we realised that the mission was compromised.”

Mtshali was pleased that SAMSA had understood that the contribution towards the maritime legacy started with the Aventura cadres. “We were the trailblazers,” he added.

SAMSA CEO Tsietsi Mokhele said: “It is important for us to have this tribute. Our stalwarts played a significant role in the history of South Africa and maritime heritage. What the stalwarts did made us realise that the sea offers more than just fish and a good view therefore maritime explorations was also critical.”

The oceans had played a noteworthy role in contributing to the country’s heritage and diversity. It was importance for us to tell the story, record it and keep it for prosperity, Mokhele added.

“The conservation of our maritime heritage and resources helped shape South Africa’s history and the make-up of its present diverse culture by offering a wealth of information. Maritime is bound to the country’s economic backbone through its practice of agriculture, sports and mining,” saidMokhele.

SAMSA’s objective was to lead and champion South Africa’s maritime interests as custodians and stewards of maritime policy, vigorous promoters of the maritime sector and giving full and complete effect to our obligations for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Members of the media are invited are invited to attend both events and will be ferried to the Island. Those wishing to attend should please send their details to farhana@fbicommunications.com and or telephone 0827876987. All arrangements to be confirmed with the media by Friday, October 30. Media to please note to send their ID numbers and car registrations so that access to the Port can be arranged.

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