National Holidays South Africa


Human Rights Day:
March 21st
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 offence.
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 Vereeniging in 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.
Freedom Day:
April 27th
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 or gender.
In 1997 it was also the date when the new constitution took effect.
Workers Day:
May 1st
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.
Youth Day:
June 16th
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 teachers.
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 Goodwill. National animal
National anthem
National bird
National coat of arms
National fish
National flag
National flower
National tree
Women’s Day:
August 9th
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.
Heritage Day:
September 24th
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 1996, President Nelson 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.’
Reconciliation Day:
December 16th
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 KwaZulu-Natal.
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 holiday.


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