Notable South Africans in the Second World War – Job Maseko of the South African Native Military Corps and winner of Military Medal for gallantry.
Maseko was employed as a delivery man in Springs before he volunteered for service with the Native Military Corps. After completion of basic training, he was sent to North Africa with the 2nd South African Division. Maseko became a prisoner of war (POW) on 21 June 1942 when Major-General Henry Belsazar KIopper, a former farmer from the Orange Free State, surrendered to Rommel at Tobruk with 32 000 men, including 10 722 South Africans of the 2nd Division, of whom 1 200 were members of the Native Military Corps. Job Maseko was later presented with the Military Medal (MM) by Major-General F H Theron.
The following extract is appropriate here, and this is made more remarkable in that Job Maseko as a ‘black’ African could only be deployed in a non combat role due to racial policies of the time:
The King has been graciously pleased to approve the following award in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in the Middle East:-
No N 4448 L/Cpl Job Masego [sic) – Native Military Corps
For meritorious and courageous action in that on or about the 21st July, while a Prisoner of War, he, Job Masego, sank a fully laden enemy steamer – probably an “F” boat – while moored in Tobruk Harbour.
This he did by placing a small tin filled with gunpowder in among drums of petrol in the hold, leading a fuse therefrom to the hatch and lighting the fuse upon closing the hatch.
In carrying out this deliberately planned action, Job Masego displayed ingenuity, determination and complete disregard of personal safety from punishment by the enemy or from the ensuing explosion which set the vessel alight.’
According to Neville Lewis, the first official war artist for South Africa during the Second World War, Job Maseko was recommended for a Victoria Cross but, being ‘only an African’, he had received the Military Medal instead. Lance Corporal Job Maseko died in 1952 and was buried with borrowed money in the Payneville Township Cemetery in Springs.
To honour this unassuming hero, the community of KwaThema near Springs has a primary school in the township named after him. The main road linking the town of Springs to KwaThema Township has also been named after him.