July 16 (2017) Sunday

On this day in 2006, Deputy Defence Minister Maluleke George attended the 90th commemoration of the Battle of Delville Wood in France.

The battle was South Africa's biggest loss in World War 1. It was also the first major engagement entered into by the SA 1st Infantry Brigade on the Western Front. Of the 121 officers and 2 032 soldiers, only 750 soldiers survived the battle. During the 2006 ceremony, a new South African coat of arms was unveiled at the South African memorial on the site. The names of black members of the South African Labour Corps who died at Arques-la-Bataille and those who perished on board the SAS Mendi in the English Channel were also unveiled.


  • In 622, the Muslim Era began when Muhammad began travelling from Mecca to Medina (Hijra). Muḥammad is the central figure of Islam and widely regarded as its founder. Muhammad gained few early followers, and met hostility from some Meccan tribes. To escape persecution, Muhammad sent some followers to Abyssinia before he and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina. This event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, also known as the Hijri Calendar. In Medina, Muhammad united the tribes under the Constitution of Medina. In December 629, after eight years of intermittent conflict with Meccan tribes, Muhammad gathered an army of 10 000 Muslim converts and marched on the city of Mecca. The attack went largely uncontested and Muhammad seized the city with little bloodshed. He destroyed 360 pagan idols at the Kaaba.
  • In 1918, a Bolshevik firing squad at Ekaterinburg, Siberia, executed Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family. Nicholas was the last tsar of Russia, ruling from 1 November 1894 until 15 March, 1917. His reign saw the fall of Imperial Russia from being one of the foremost great powers of the world to economic and military collapse. Following the February Revolution of 1917, Nicholas abdicated on behalf of himself and his son, and he and his family were imprisoned. In the spring of 1918, Nicholas was handed over to the local Ural Soviet. He and his family were eventually executed by the Bolsheviks on the night of 16 July 1918. Their remains were buried in 1998. In 1981, Nicholas, his wife and their children were canonised as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, located in New York City.
  • In 1990, the recently unbanned ANC sent a report on police violence to President F. W. de Klerk and demanded an end to police brutality in rural areas. The report was based on about 50 statements to lawyers by victims of police action in the farming communities of Ashton, Montague and Robertson in the Western Cape.
  • In 1999, John Kennedy Jr., the only surviving son of former President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy died in a plane crash. From his early childhood onwards, Kennedy was the subject of great media scrutiny, and he became a popular social figure in Manhattan. Trained as a lawyer, he worked as a New York City Assistant District Attorney for four years. In 1995, he launched George magazine, using his political and celebrity status to publicise it. Kennedy died along with his wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and her elder sister Lauren. They were on their way to a wedding in Martha's Vineyard.
  • In 2012, actor Russell Brand divorced pop star Katy Perry due to irreconcilable differences just a year after they tied the knot in a fairy-tale wedding in India.

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PJ Powers

Local musician Penelope Jane Dunlop – also known as PJ Powers or "Thandeka" – was born in Durban on this day in 1963.

Her first musical group was an all-girl band called Pantha before becoming the lead singer for the rock band Hotline, which was formed in Johannesburg in 1980. The band changed their style to Afro-rock in 1983. Their biggest hit was "Jabulani", which was written by Hotline's bass guitarist, George van Dyk. The group disbanded in 1987, after which Powers pursued a solo career. In 1988, she was banned from radio and television for a year by the apartheid government for her performance at a charity concert for war orphans in Zimbabwe. She was encouraged to continue her singing by Nelson Mandela, who wrote to her from Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town. In 1995, her recording of the Rugby World Cup official song featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo, "World in Union", reached no. 47 on the UK Singles Chart. She performed the song live at the opening of the 1995 Rugby World Cup in Cape Town for a worldwide television audience. In the 1990s, her music took on a more Afro-pop focus, finding a receptive audience in the black market, who gave her the nickname, "Thandeka" (the loved one). Powers has shared the stage with Eric Clapton, Joan Armatrading, Hugh Masekela, Divine Divas, Lord Richard Attenborough and Sibongile Khumalo. She also wrote an 85th birthday song for Mandela, which she sang for him and guests including Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey at his party in 2003. Her latest album, "Destiny" was released at the end of 2013. Her biography, "Here I Am", as told to Marianne Thamm, was released by Penguin books in August 2014.