Cape Town: Here’s why military jets are flying over the city on Sunday

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Ahh, the sounds of Sunday morning: Birds chirping, church bells ringing… and Air Force jets roaring through the sky? Residents of Cape Town have been left puzzled by the noise of military aircraft circling the city – but there’s a logical explanation, and thankfully, it’s one free of conflict.

Why are jets flying above Cape Town on Sunday 21 February?

Swathes of Capetonians reported hearing these planes around 8:00 today. Multiple jets could be heard making their way across town – with some comparing the event to a Hollywood blockbuster.

Remembering the SS Mendi

Here’s what is happening: A military fly-by is taking place to pay tribute to one of SA’s darkest hours: On the night of 21 February 1917, more than 600 men of the South African Native Labour Corps (SANLC) lost their lives in the sinking of the SS Mendi – the largest single loss of life for the non-combatants in the SANLC during the First World War.

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The Mendi was carrying the SANLC to France, where they were due to serve as essential labour support to the ongoing fighting, when the SS Darro, a much larger mail ship, struck the troopship. Every year, this tragic incident is marked with a series of commemorative events – including an Air Force fly-by above Cape Town.

Cape Town: Where will the jets fly?

In total, four of these high-powered jets will make themselves heard at various intervals on Sunday – with the Castle of Good Hope getting an official flypast at 11:00.

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