Heritage Day (South Africa)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Heritage Day (Afrikaans: Erfenisdag) On September 24, 1995, the Republic of South Africa celebrated its first Heritage Day. The day was declared a national holiday by the first democratically elected government of South Africa, which was elected on April 27, 1994. According to the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, the word heritage is defined as "that which we inherit: the sum total of wild life and scenic parks, sites of scientific or historical importance, national monuments, historic buildings, works of art, literature and music, oral traditions and museum collections together with their documentation." To help South Africans celebrate their heritage, this day has been set aside to recognize all aspects of South African culture, including creative expression, historical inheritance, language, food, and the land in which they live.

Robben Island September 24, 1995 - First celebration of Heritage Day[1] During his speech on Heritage Day in 1995, President Nelson Mandela said, "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."[2]

The government of the Republic of South Africa determines a theme for each year's celebrations. That first Heritage Day celebration in 1995 focused on composer Enoch Sontonga, the creator of a hymn that was adopted as the national anthem, His gravesite was declared a national monument, and his music was highlighted.

History of Heritage Day before 1995[edit]

In KwaZulu-Natal, 24 September was known as Shaka Day, in commemoration of the Zulu King, Shaka.[3] Shaka was the legendary Zulu King who played an important role in uniting disparate Zulu clans into a cohesive nation. Each year people gather at King Shaka's grave to honor him on this day.

The Public Holidays Bill presented to the Parliament of South Africa at the time did not have 24 September included on the list of proposed public holidays. As a result of this exclusion, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a South African political party with a large Zulu membership, objected to the bill. Parliament and the IFP reached a compromise and the day was given its present title and seen as a public holiday.

...when South Africans celebrate the diverse cultural heritage that makes up a "rainbow nation". It is the day to celebrate the contribution of all South Africans to the building of South Africa(sic)
— Lowry 21:1995[4]

Celebration of Heritage Day[edit]

South Africans celebrate Heritage Day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day.

Former Western Cape Provincial Premier Ebrahim Rasool addressed the public at a Heritage Day celebration at the Gugulethu Heritage trail in 2007 in Gugulethu.

In Hout Bay, there is an army procession and a recreation of the battle fought there.

In 2005, a media campaign sought to "re-brand" the holiday as National Braai Day, in recognition of the South African culinary tradition of holding informal backyard barbecues, or braais.

On 5 September 2007, Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his appointment as patron of South Africa's Barbecue (Braai) Day, affirming it to be a unifying force in a divided country (by donning an apron and tucking into a boerewors sausage). At the end of 2007 National Braai Day changed its name to Braai4Heritage and the initiative received the endorsement of South Africa's National Heritage Council (NHC)

Organiser Jan Scannell announced that the aim is not to have a mass braai, but littler ones with friends and family.[5]


  1. ^ http://www.info.gov.za. Retrieved 6 December 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "South Africa Heritage Day". Thefreedictionary.com. 
  3. ^ Shaka Day, accessed 5 May 2012
  4. ^ Lowry, Stephen (1995). Know your National Holidays. Swaziland: Macmillan. 
  5. ^ BBC NEWS, Tutu praises 'unifying' barbecues