Heritage Day (South Africa)

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Heritage Day
Braai Fire.JPG
Heritage Day is a day to remember and celebrate the various South African cultures and their heritage.
Observed bySouth Africans
Date24 September
First time24 September 1995

Heritage Day (Afrikaans: Erfenisdag, Xhosa: Usuku Lwamagugu, Usuku Lwamasiko) is a South African public holiday celebrated on 24 September. On this day, South Africans are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people.

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In KwaZulu-Natal, 24 September was known as Shaka Day, in commemoration of Shaka, the Zulu king, on the presumed date of his death in 1828.[1][2] Shaka played an important role in uniting the disparate Zulu clans into a cohesive nation.[3] Each year people gather at the Shaka Memorial to honour him on this day.[2] The Public Holidays Bill presented to the post-Apartheid Parliament of South Africa in 1996 did not include 24 September 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 ANC reached a compromise and the day was given its present title and accepted as a public holiday:[1]

...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]


South Africans celebrate the 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.[5]

Former Western Cape Provincial Premier Ebrahim Rasool addressed the public at a Heritage Day celebration at the Gugulethu Heritage trail in 2007 in Gugulethu.[6] In Hout Bay, there is an army procession and a recreation of the battle fought there.[citation needed]

In 2005, Jan Scannell (known as "Jan Braai") started a media campaign proposing that the holiday be renamed as National Braai Day, in commemoration of the culinary tradition of informal backyard barbecues, known as braais.[7][8] On 5 September 2007, Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his appointment as patron of South Africa's Braai Day,[9] affirming it to be a unifying force in a divided country (by donning an apron and enthusiastically eating a boerewors sausage).[10] In 2008, the initiative received the endorsement of South Africa's National Heritage Council.[5] Scannell said that the aim is to hold small events with friends and family, and not to have a mass braai.[10] To Mofele writing for News24 and Herman Wasserman writing for Africa Is a Country have criticised National Braai Day for making people forget the history and the original meaning of why the day was created.[7][11]


  1. ^ a b Jethro, Duane (2020). Heritage Formation and the Senses in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Aesthetics of Power. Routledge. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-00-018536-2.
  2. ^ a b Erasmus, B. P. J. (2014). On Route in South Africa: Explore South Africa region by region. Jonathan Ball Publishers. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-920289-80-5.
  3. ^ Reed, Charles V. (2015). "Shaka". In Danver, Steven L. (ed.). Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures and Contemporary Issues: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures and Contemporary Issues. Routledge. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-317-46400-6.
  4. ^ Lowry, Stephen (1995). Know Your National Holidays: A Guide to South Africa's New National Holidays. Swaziland: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7978-0558-3.
  5. ^ a b "Heritage day, Braai Day or Shaka Day: Whose Heritage is it Anyway?". South African History Online. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  6. ^ "E Rasool: Western Cape Education Heritage Day celebrations during Heritage Month". www.gov.za. South African Government. 18 September 2007. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  7. ^ a b Molefe, To (17 September 2014). "'National Braai Day' a day of forgetting". News24. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  8. ^ Jethro 2020, pp. 147–148.
  9. ^ Botha, Clinton (24 September 2017). "About Heritage Day". Randfontein Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Tutu praises 'unifying' barbecues". BBC News. 6 September 2007. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  11. ^ Wasserman, Herman (25 September 2013). "Some of my best friends are braaiers". Africa Is a Country. Retrieved 22 September 2020.

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