TODAY IN HISTORY – March 20 (2017) Monday

On this day in 1920, the first flight from London to South Africa landed after a six week journey.

On 4 February, two South African pilots, Pierre van Ryneveld and Christopher Brand departed for Africa in a Vickers Vimy named the Silver Queen. The flight took 45 days with a total flight time of 109 hours and 30 minutes, owing to crash landings in the Sudan and Bulawayo. It took 11 hours for the pair to cross the Mediterranean, owing to bad weather conditions, and they wrecked their aircraft following forced landing at Wadi Halfa in Sudan due to a leaking radiator. Eleven days later they continued on their journey in a second Vimy F8615, which was loaned from the Royal Air Force at Heliopolis, in Egypt. The second aircraft crashed on 6 March in Bulawayo because it was overloaded. A de Havilland DH9, which was part of the Imperial Gift, was flown to Bulawayo to allow the South African pilots to complete their journey. They set off for the final leg of their journey on 17 March and landed three days later at Youngfield in Wynberg, Cape Town. Van Ryneveld and Brand were knighted for this achievement.


  • In 1896, the second Matabele war, also known as the Matabele Rebellion broke out in Zimbabwe. It pitted the British South Africa Company against the Ndebele people, which led to conflict with the Shona people in the rest of Rhodesia who would only join the rebellion in June 1896. According to the Ndebele, the Zimbabwe government has tried to misappropriate this history after Zimbabwe's independence by trying to rename it the First Chimurenga.
  • In 1933, Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp, was completed. It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory northeast of the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria. Opened by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labor, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded. The Dachau camp system grew to include nearly 100 sub-camps, which were mostly work camps or "Arbeitskommandos," and were located throughout southern Germany and Austria. The camps were liberated by U.S. forces on 29 April 1945.
  • In 1961, King Hassan II ascended to the throne of Morocco, a position he held until his death in 1999. He was the eldest son of Mohammed V, Sultan, then King of Morocco and his second wife, Lalla Abla bint Tahar. Hassan's conservative rule was characterised by a poor human rights record which strengthened the Alaouite dynasty. In Morocco's first constitution of 1963, Hassan II reaffirmed Morocco's choice of a multi-party political system. The constitution gave the King large powers which he eventually used to strengthen his rule. This provoked strong political protests.
  • In 1976, Patricia Hearst was convicted of armed robbery. She was the granddaughter of American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and became a global celebrity after she was kidnapped while studying in Berkeley, California in 1974. Hearst was abducted by a left-wing terrorist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army. After being isolated and threatened with death, she became supportive of their cause, making propaganda announcements for them and taking part in illegal activities. Hearst was found 19 months after her kidnapping, by which time she was a fugitive wanted for serious crimes. She was found guilty of bank robbery. Her conviction and long prison sentence were widely seen as unjust, but the procedural correctness of her trial was upheld by the courts. Hearst's sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter, and she was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
  • In 2016, Barack Obama became the first US President to visit Cuba since 1928. A point of contention during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, a nuclear war nearly broke out during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. However, relations between the US and Cuba have warmed considerably over the past few years.

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Surprise Moriri

Mamelodi Sundowns football star Surprise Moriri was born in Matibidi, Mpumalanga on this day in 1980.

The free-scoring midfielder was chosen as South Africa’s PSL Player of the Season in 2005–06. He usually plays as a second striker or behind the striker as a supporting striker. He can also be deployed on the right side of midfield. He scored 12 goals in all competitions (11 in the league) to be Sundowns’ top scorer and help the 'Brazilians' to their first league title since 2000. In the 2006–07 season, he scored 11 league goals and three in the CAF Champions League. The following season, he managed to find the net on three occasions in the league but scored two Nedbank Cup goals, one MTN 8 goal, one Tekom Knockout goal and four CAF Champions League, giving him a total of 11 goals.