The Death Drill (a novel)

During the stay at STIAS research and writing on the historical novel ‘The Death Drill, inspired by and based on the sinking of the SS Mendi, a battle ship carrying members of the South African Native Labour Corps, will be continued. The ship sank in the early hours of 21 February 1917 after colliding with the SS Darro off the Isle of Wight. 616 South African men (607 of them black troops) plus 30 British crew members perished. The black men were on their way to assist the British army repulse the Germans in France after the war that would later be called World War I had reached a stalemate.

Peopling the book with both historical figures (General Jan Smuts for example, Sol Plaatje etc) and purely fictional characters, the sinking will be used as a springboard from which an inquiry into complex issues bedevilling South Africa at the time will be launched: the land question, blacks being denied the vote, and the state of race relations seven years after the formation of the Union of South Africa and five years after the formation of the South African Native National Congress, later the ANC. The writing is at an advanced stage. The objective, during the stay at STIAS, is to continue writing, covering as much as possible in the time allocated.

Project leader(s):
  • Fred Khumalo (journalist)

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