South Africa's National Holidays  

A look at the significance of South Africa's seven national holidays.
When Apartheid ended and the African National Congress under
Mandela came into power in South Africa in 1994, the national holidays were
changed to days that would be meaningful to all South Africans.

21 March: Human Rights Day

On this day in 1960 the police killed 69 people at Sharpeville who were
participating in a protest against the pass laws. Many were shot in the back.
The carnage made world headlines. Four days later the government banned
black political organisations, many leaders were arrested or went into exile.
During the Apartheid era there were human rights abuses by all sides; Human
Rights Day is but one step to ensure that the people of South Africa are aware
of their human rights and to ensure that such abuses never again occur.

27 April: Freedom Day

This was the day in 1994 when the first democratic election was held in South
Africa, ie an election when all adults could vote irrespective of their race, and
the day in 1997 when the new
constitution took effect.

1 May: Worker's Day

Many countries around the world commemorate the contribution made by
workers to society on May Day (America doesn't celebrate this holiday because
of its communist origins). It has traditionally been a day to protest for better
wages and working conditions. Given the role that trade unions played in the
fight for freedom, it is unsurprising that
South Africa commemorates this day.

16 June: Youth Day

In 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 honour of all the young people who lost their lives in the struggle
against Apartheid and Bantu Education.

9 August: National Women's Day

On this day in 1956 some 20,000 women marched to the Union [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

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 16 December 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's it's a day of reconciliation, a day to focus on
overcoming the conflicts of the past and building a new nation.

This is the source:
South Africa
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