Why does South Africa celebrate Heritage Day?

Heritage Day – 24 September – is one of South Africa’s newer public holidays, declared after the republic became a democracy in 1994. The day was first observed in 1996.

The Orlando Towers in Soweto – once the cooling towers of an old power station – colourfully celebrate South Africa’s heritage. (Image: South African Tourism)

Priya Pitamber

Prior to that, 24 September was commemorated in KwaZulu-Natal as Shaka Day, in honour of the legendary Zulu leader, King Shaka Zulu.

When this day was omitted from the proposed Public Holidays Bill before parliament in 1995, the Inkatha Freedom Party objected. In the spirit of reconciliation, a compromise was made to create a day on which everyone in the country could celebrate diversity in cultural heritage.

“The day is one of our newly created public holidays and its significance rests in recognising aspects of South African culture which are both tangible and difficult to pin down: creative expression, our historical inheritance, language, the food we eat as well as the land in which we live,” said the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in 1996.

“Within a broader social and political context, the day’s events are a powerful agent for promulgating a South African identity, fostering reconciliation and promoting the notion that variety is a national asset as opposed to igniting conflict.”

Mandela on heritage

In marking Heritage Day in 1996, Nelson 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.”

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.

Recent Posts

SUPPORTING SCHOOLS THROUGH ANOTHER YEAR OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

A week since the official opening of the 2021 academic schooling year, Brand South Africa…

10 hours ago

SCHOLARS OF COURAGE – SALUTE TO THE CLASS OF 2020

Brand South Africa would like to take this opportunity to applaud the matric class of…

2 days ago

Recognising and promoting social justice in South Africa

By Mduduzi Malinga Last week 20 February marked the World Day of Social Justice. This…

2 days ago

Hidden Gems of South Africa

South Africa, “Mzansi”, is home to big cities, picturesque mountain views, vineyards and beautiful beaches,…

6 days ago

World Trade Organisation new future led by Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who has been elected Nigeria’s Finance Minister twice, wrote her name in the…

6 days ago

Play Your Part Ambassador Pearl Maphumulo and The Business Development Agency hosts Early Stage Finance Webinar

For Entrepreneur and Play Your Part ambassador, Pearl Maphumulo, the year 2020 served its fair…

6 days ago