Basics – Public Holidays and National Celebrations in South Africa

12 Jan 2018

May 1 – Workers’ Day

June 16 – Youth Day. Commemorates the Soweto riots of 1976 in which hundreds of black schoolchildren from Soweto, who were protesting against the poor state of Bantu education and particularly the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in all South African schools, were shot by the apartheid police.

August 9 – National Women’s Day. On this day in 1956 more than 50,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the imposition of the passbook laws.

September 24 – Heritage Day. Celebrating the cultural heritage of the many different ethnic groupings that make up the rainbow nation. Many South Africans choose to wear traditional clothing to mark this day. Also unofficially known by many as National Braai Day!

December 16 – Day of Reconciliation. This holiday came into effect following the end of apartheid in 1994. It is a holiday intended to foster national unity and reconciliation. This date was chosen as it was on this day in 1961 that Umkhonto we Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation, the armed wing of the ANC) and as the date is also significant to Afrikaaners (on this day the Boers defeated the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838).


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