One of the more intriguing tokens of the torment of unforeseeable outcomes is the naming of two South African brothers a century ago by a father for whom prudence was evidently the better part of patriotism. In 1915, mindful of the vagaries of war in the uncertain opening months of the bloody contest between Germany and Britain, Chief Mhlolo Mvuso Matanzima named his newborn son Kaiser, after German emperor Wilhelm II. Three years later, the winds of fortune having by then favoured British imperial arms and those of its allies, he opted for a monarchical George for his next son. The naming of the Matanzima brothers, both of whom would court notoriety in the homeland politics of apartheid’s later years, is just a footnote today.Much more than a footnote is the destiny of their uncle, born in the last months of the Great War, in July 1918, who, unforeseeably in the imperial setting of his birth, would emerge as a global icon and, a century later, be the celebratory motif of an address...

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