Public holidays in South Africa

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A list of public holidays in South Africa:[1]

Date English Name Period
1 January New Year's Day
21 March Human Rights Day 1996[2]-present
The Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday
The Monday following Easter Sunday Family Day
27 April Freedom Day 1994[2]-present
1 May Workers' Day 1994[3]-present
16 June Youth Day 1995[4]-present
9 August National Women's Day 1995[5]-present
24 September Heritage Day 1995[6]-present
16 December Day of Reconciliation 1995-present
25 December Christmas Day
26 December Day of Goodwill

The Public Holidays Act (Act No 36 of 1994)[7] determines that whenever any public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following it will be a public holiday.[1]

Once-off holidays[edit]

Since 1994 election days have been declared ad hoc public holidays:

  • National Government Elections - 2 June 1999[8]
  • National Government Elections - 14 April 2004[9]
  • Local Government Elections - 1 March 2006[10]
  • National Government Elections - 22 April 2009[11]
  • Local Government Elections - 18 May 2011[12]
  • National Government Elections - 7 May 2014[13]

31 December 1999 and 2 January 2000 were declared public holidays to accommodate the Y2K changeover, and 3 January 2000 was automatically a public holiday because the previous holiday was a Sunday.[14]

2 May 2008 was declared a public holiday when Human Rights Day and Good Friday coincided on 21 March 2008.[15]

27 December 2011 was declared a holiday by (acting) president Kgalema Motlanthe as Christmas Day fell on a Sunday which generally makes the following Monday a public holiday. However the following Monday the 26 December 2011 was the Day of Goodwill and therefore decreased the number of paid public holidays for the year. Initially this day was not to be declared a public holiday[16] but in mid-December the decision was changed.[17]

Religious public holidays[edit]

The Christian holidays of Christmas Day and Good Friday remained in secular post-apartheid South Africa's calendar of public holidays. The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), a chapter nine institution established in 2004, held countrywide consultative public hearings in June and July 2012 to assess the need for a review of public holidays following the receipt of complaints from minority groups about unfair discrimination. The CRL Rights Commission stated that they would submit their recommendations to the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Labour, various Portfolio Committees and the Office of the Presidency by October 2012.[18][19] On 10 November 2012 the Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor told Christian protesters objecting to the removal of Christian public holidays that she had not received any enquiries from the CRL Rights Commission yet.[20] The CRL Rights Commission published its recommendations on 17 April 2013, including the scrapping of some existing public holidays to free up days for some non-Christian religious public holidays.[21][22]

Historical public holidays[edit]

South Africa's present calendar of public holidays was introduced in 1994. During the period between Union in 1910, and the establishment of the present republic in 1994, the following were the official public holidays:

Date English Name Period
1 January New Year's Day 1910–present
The Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday 1910–present
The Monday following Easter Sunday Easter Monday

Family Day



6 April Van Riebeeck's Day

Founder's Day



1st Friday in May Workers' Day 1987–1989
1 May Workers' Day 1990–present
40th day after Easter Ascension Day 1910–1993
24 May Victoria Day / Empire Day 1910–1951
31 May Union Day

Republic Day



2nd Monday in July Queen's Birthday 1952–1960
10 July Family Day 1961–1974
1st Monday in August King's Birthday 1910–1951
1st Monday in September Settlers' Day 1952–1979
10 October Kruger Day 1952–1993
16 December Dingaan's Day

Day of the Covenant

Day of the Vow

Day of Reconciliation





25 December Christmas Day 1910–present
26 December Boxing Day

Day of Goodwill




  1. ^ a b "NO. 36 OF 1994: PUBLIC HOLIDAYS ACT, 1994.". Government Communications (GCIS). 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  2. ^ a b "Government Website: Public Holidays Archive". Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "First celebration of May Day in South Africa". South African History Online. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "Speech by President Nelson Mandela on South Africa Youth Day Ladysmith, 16 June 1995". South African History Online. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "South Africa celebrates the first National Women's Day". South African History Online. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "First celebration of National Heritage Day". South African History Online. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT: NO. 36 OF 1994: PUBLIC HOLIDAYS ACT, 1994". 7 December 1994. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Media Advisory". Department of Provincial and Local Government. 2006-01-27. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  9. ^ "VOTING DAY A PUBLIC HOLIDAY". Department Home Affairs. 2004-04-08. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  10. ^ "Media release on public holidays". Government Communications (GCIS). 1999-06-01. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  11. ^ "President declares 22 April a public holiday throughout the Republic". The Presidency. 2009-03-19. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  12. ^ "President declares a public holiday". The Presidency. 2011-03-16. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  13. ^ "Proclamation by the President of the Republic of South Africa". President. 2014-02-25. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  14. ^ "Media release on public holidays". Government Communications (GCIS). 1999-10-25. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  15. ^ "T Mbeki declares 2 May 2008 public holiday". Government Communications (GCIS). 2008-03-25. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  16. ^ "Tuesday 27 December not a public holiday". Department of Home Affairs. 2005-10-13. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  17. ^ "Acting President Kgalema Motlanthe declares 27 December 2011 a public holiday". The Presidency. 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  18. ^ "crl rights commission continues with the consultative community hearings on the possible review of public holidays". 26 June 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  19. ^ "Fight over religious holidays". Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  20. ^ "Hands off Christmas, protesters say". 10 November 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  21. ^ "Recommendations: Public Holidays vs Religious/Cultural Holydays". CRL Rights Commission. Retrieved 23 April 2013.  Publication date per link to document from home page: "Investigation and Conflict Resolution Reports: The ICR Reports were launched on Wednesday 17 April 2013"
  22. ^ "Public holidays scrutinised (video)". eNCA. 29 April 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 

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