Public holidays in South Africa 2017
South Africa has 12 public holidays as determined by the Public Holidays Act (Act No 36 of 1994) [PDF]. The Act determines whenever any public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following on it shall be a public holiday.
1 January: New Year’s Day
2 January: Public holiday
21 March: Human Rights Day
14 April: Good Friday*
17 April: Family Day*
27 April: Freedom Day
1 May: Workers Day
16 June: Youth Day
9 August: National Women’s Day
24 September: Heritage Day
25 September: Public holiday
16 December: Day of Reconciliation
25 December: Christmas Day
26 December: Day of Goodwill
* The dates on which Good Friday and Easter Sunday fall are determined according to the ecclesiastical moon. That varies each year but they fall at some point between late March and late April. **The Public Holidays Act (Act No 36 of 1994 [PDF]) determines whenever any public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following on it shall be a public holiday. Constitution is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. The Constitution provides for the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The aim of the Commission is to promote respect for human rights, promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in SA. The SAHRC was launched on 21 March 1996, 35 years after the fateful events of 21 March 1960 when demonstrators in Sharpeville were gunned down by police. The Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952 extended Government control over the movement of Africans to urban areas and abolished the use of the Pass Book (a document which Africans were required to carry on them to ‘prove’ that they were allowed to enter a ‘white area’) in favour of a reference book which had to be carried at all times by all Africans. Failure to produce the reference book on demand by the police, was a punishable offence. The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) proposed an anti-Pass campaign to start on 21 March 1960. All African men were to take part in the campaign without their passes and present themselves for arrest. Campaigners gathered at police stations in townships near Johannesburg where they were dispersed by police. At the Sharpeville police station a scuffle broke out. Part of a wire fence was trampled, allowing the crowd to move forward. The police opened fire, apparently without having been given a prior order to do so. Sixty-nine people were killed and 180 wounded. In apartheid South Africa this day became known as Sharpeville Day and although not part of the official calendar of public holidays the event was commemorated among anti-apartheid movements. Freedom Day celebrations. More information. More information
(Statement issued by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, 17 September 1996)In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, (former) President 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. We knew that, if indeed our nation has to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of division and conflict, we had to acknowledge those whose selfless efforts and talents were dedicated to this goal of non-racial democracy.”Government determines a theme for each year’s celebrations. More on Heritage Day More information Sources:
- Public Holidays Act, Act No 36 of 1994
- South Africa. Department of Home Affairs. 1994. Report of the technical working group on public holidays to the Minister’s Committee. Pretoria: Department of Home Affairs.
- Illustrated History of South Africa: The Real Story, 1989. Cape Town, Reader’s Digest.
- SIMKINS, C. 1988. The Prisoners of Tradition and the Politics of Nation-building. Johannesburg: South African Institute of Race Relations.