South Africa Holiday: National Holidays
South Africa celebrates
Human Rights Day, Freedom Day, Workers Day, Youth
Day, Women's Day, Heritage Day and Reconciliation
Day, as well as New Years Day, Good Friday, Easter
Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
The 1952 Native Laws Amendment Act extended
Government control over the movement of Africans by
introducing a reference book which had to be carried
at all times by all Africans. Failure to produce the
book on demand by the police, was a punishable
The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) led an
anti-Pass campaign starting on 21 March 1960. All
African men were to take part without their passes
and present themselves for arrest.
At the Sharpeville police station near
Gauteng, a scuffle broke out and part of a wire
fence was trampled, allowing the crowd to move
forward. The police opened fire and 69 people were
killed and 180 wounded in the ensuing massacre.
The South African Human Rights Commission was
launched on 21 March 1996, 35 years after the
fateful Sharpeville Massacre.
This was the date in 1994 when the first free
democratic elections were held i.e. when all adults
could vote irrespective of their race, colour, creed
In 1997 it was also the date when the new
constitution took effect.
Many countries around the world commemorate the
contribution made by workers to society on May Day.
Given the role that trade unions and the South
African Communist Party played in the fight for
freedom, it is not surprising that South Africa
commemorates May Day.
In 1975 protests started in African schools
after a directive from the Bantu Education
Department that Afrikaans must be used on an equal
basis with English as the language of education.
The issue, however, was not so much the
Afrikaans language, as the whole system of Bantu
education which was characterised by separate
schools and universities, poor facilities,
overcrowded classrooms and inadequately trained
On 16 June 1976 more than 20,000 pupils in
Soweto began a protest march. In the wake of clashes
with the police and the violence that ensued, 700
hundred people, many of them youths, were killed
over the following days and weeks. 16 June became
known as Soweto Day.
|Easter Monday is called
Family Day) and Boxing Day is called Day of
On this day in 1956 some 20,000 women
marched to the Government Buildings in
Pretoria to protest against a law requiring
black women to carry passes to prove that
they could enter a 'white' area for work.
This day is a celebration of the
contribution made by women to society, the
achievements that have been made for women's
rights, and to acknowledge the difficulties
and prejudices many women still face.
The significance of this day rests in
recognising aspects of South African culture
which are both tangible and difficult to pin
down: creative expression, historical
inheritance, language and culture.
In an address marking Heritage Day in
Mandela stated, "When our first
democratically-elected government decided to
make Heritage Day one of our national days,
we did so because we knew that our rich and
varied cultural heritage has a profound
power to help build our new nation. We did
so knowing that the struggles against the
injustice and inequities of the past are
part of our national identity; they are part
of our culture."
On 16 December 1838 about 10,000 of
Dingane's Zulu troops attacked Andries
Pretorius' laager (ox wagon circle) on the
banks of the Ncome river in
The 470 Voortrekkers, with the advantage
of gun powder, warded them off. More than
3,000 Zulus were killed and just three
Voortrekkers were wounded during the battle.
The river ran red with blood and was
subsequently renames Blood River.
Before the battle, the Voortrekkers took
a vow to observe a day of thanksgiving
should they be granted victory, and this day
became known as the Day of the Vow.
ANC activists commemorated this as the
day in 1961 when they started to arm their
soldiers to overthrow Apartheid.
Today 16 December is celebrated as a day
to foster reconciliation and national unity.
|Whenever a public
holiday falls on a Sunday, the
following Monday is a public