South Africa: Holidays                                                      

21 March            Human Rights Day

On this day in 1960 the police killed 69 people at Sharpeville who were participating in a protest. Four days later the government banned black political organizations and many leaders were arrested or went into exile. During the Apartheid era there were human rights abuses by all sides. Human Rights Day is one step to ensure that the people of South Africa are aware of their human rights and of the abuses that have occurred in the past.


27 April             Freedom Day

This was the day in 1994 when the first democratic election open to all races was held in South Africa.


1 May                 Worker's Day

A commemoration of the contribution that workers make.

16 June               Youth Day

On  June 1976 students in Soweto rioted in protest against the introduction of Afrikaans as the language of instruction of half their school curriculum, sparking eight months of violent uprisings across the country. Youth Day is a national holiday in honor of all the young people who lost their lives in the struggle against Apartheid and Bantu Education.


18 July                Mandela Day

A public holiday introduced by President Jacob Zuma in 2009 to celebrate Nelson Mandela (photo). "It will give people in South Africa and all over the world the opportunity to do something good to help others. Madiba (an honorary titled used for Mr. Mandela) was politically active for 67 years, and on Mandela Day people all over the world, in the workplace, called upon to spend at least 67 minutes of useful within their communities.

9 August            National Women's Day

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. This day is celebrated as a reminder 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.


24 September            Heritage Day

Nelson Mandela coined the phrase "rainbow nation" to describe South Africa's diverse cultures, customs, traditions, histories, and languages. This day is a celebration of that diversity.


16 December              Day of Reconciliation

Afrikaners traditionally celebrated December 16th as the Day of the Vow, remembering the day in 1838 when a group of Voortrekkers defeated a Zulu army at the Battle of Blood River, while ANC activists commemorated it as the day in 1961 when the ANC started to arm its soldiers to overthrow Apartheid. In the new South Africa, it's a day of reconciliation, a day to focus on overcoming the conflicts of the past and building a new nation.