Day of Reconciliation

Day of Reconciliation

The National flag largely represents peace and unity.
Also called Reconciliation day
Observed by Republic of South Africa
Date 16 December
Next time 16 December 2016 (2016-12-16)
First time 16 December 1995
Related to Day of the Vow

The Day of Reconciliation is a public holiday in South Africa held annually on 16 December. The holiday came into effect in 1994 after the end of apartheid, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity for the country.[1] The date was chosen because it was significant to both Afrikaner and African cultures. Government chose a meaningful date for both ethnic groups because they recognize the need for racial harmony.

Date and observance

The first time the Day of Reconciliation was celebrated as a public holiday was in 1995.[2] The new government chose to represent national unity by choosing a date that had significance for "both the Afrikaner and liberation struggle traditions."[2]

On Day of Reconciliation, cultural groups participate in parades and various festivities take place throughout the country.[3] On Day of Reconciliation 2013, a statue of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, was unveiled in Pretoria.[4] Some of the communities take part in a walk which also serve as a memorial to Mandela.[5] Other parts of South Africa have chosen to emphasize their need for racial harmony in their communities.[5]

Each year has had a different theme. For example:


Afrikaner origins

For Afrikaners, 16 December was commemorated as the Day of the Vow,[1] also known as Day of the Covenant or Dingaan's dag (Dingaan's Day).[9] The Day of the Vow was a religious holiday commemorating the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838,[2] and is still celebrated by some Afrikaners.[10] On that day, 470 Voortrekkers were attacked in an early morning battle led by Dingane's generals.[9] The Voortrekkers defeated the Zulus who numbered in the 10-thousands and during the battle, 3,000 Zulu warriors were killed.[9] The event became a "rallying point for the development of Afrikaner nationalism, culture and identity."[9]

The religious significance of the event, where it is called Day of the Covenant or Day of the Vow, involves the belief that the Voortrekker victory of the Zulus was ordained by the God of Christianity.[9] The General Synod of the Afrikaners' Natal Churches chose 16 December as "an ecclesiastical day of thanksgiving by all its congregations" in 1864.[9] Later, in 1894, Dingane's Day was declared a public holiday by the Government of the Free State.[9]

During Apartheid, 16 December continued to be celebrated as the Day of the Vow[11] and the Day of the Covenant.[12] In 1952, Dingane's Day was changed to Day of the Covenant and in 1980 was changed to The Day of the Vow.[12] The Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria was erected on 16 December 1949 to commemorate Dingane's Day.[13][14]

African origins

Africans who did not have the right to vote after the South African War protested racial discrimination on 16 December 1910.[9]

Because efforts of passive protest and resistance against Apartheid had been unsuccessful, the African National Congress (ANC) decided to form a military or armed group.[7] The date of 16 December is the anniversary of the 1961 founding of Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation"), the armed wing of the ANC.[1] On that day, Umknonto we Sizwe enacted its "first acts of sabotage" which included bomb blasts against government buildings in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban.[9]

Day of Reconciliation

When Apartheid ended, it was decided to keep 16 December as a public holiday, but to infuse it "with the purpose of fostering reconciliation and national unity."[11] It was established by the government in 1994.[15] Nelson Mandela was part of the group of politicians that helped start the idea for the holiday.[16] On 16 December 1995, the first celebration took place.[2] The first meeting of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission also took place on 16 December 1995.[17] In an address in 1995, Archbishop Desmond Tutu described the holiday as serving the need of healing the wounds of Apartheid.[18]

The holiday is also used to celebrate minority cultural groups in South Africa, such as the San people.[5] South African President, Jacob Zuma, in 2009, also stressed that the holiday was meant to also promote "non-sexism."[19]

Other significance

The day is also the de facto start of the sixteenth day of the South African summer holiday period. It is the first of four public holidays observed at the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, along with Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill and New Year's Day. Many small businesses close down and employees go on leave over this period.[20]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Public Holidays". Government Communications. 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2009-11-05.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Day of Reconciliation celebrated as a public holiday in SA for the first time". South African History Online. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  3. Wa Monareng, Motsebi (16 December 2015). "Mpumalanga Reconciliation Day celebrations display cultural diversity". SABC. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  4. "Nelson Mandela Statue Unveiled in South Africa on Day of Reconciliation". CTV News. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 "SA Celebrates Reconciliation Day". SABC. 16 December 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  6. "Invitation to Reconciliation Day". South African Government. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  7. 1 2 "16 December: a day to learn from the past". South 16 December 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  8. "Day of Reconciliation 2015". South African Government. 16 December 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "December 16, the reflection of a changing South African heritage". South African History Online. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  10. Bearak, Barry (16 December 2009). "Holiday of White Conquest Persists in South Africa". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  11. 1 2 "Day of Reconciliation". Office Holidays. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  12. 1 2 "Day of Reconciliation". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  13. Malathronas, John (12 September 2016). "City of change: Exploring new South Africa in old Pretoria". CNN. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  14. Anonymous (2011-03-31). "December 16, the reflection of a changing South African heritage". Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  15. Sagolla, Lisa Jo (11 November 2010). "Collaborating Across Cultures". Back Stage. 51 (45): 6 via EBSCOhost. (subscription required (help)).
  16. "Former Battleground Provides Perfect Setting for Day of Reconciliation". SA People News. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  17. Daly, Erin; Sarkin, Jeremy (2007). Reconciliation in Divided Societies: Finding Common Ground. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 276. ISBN 9780812239768.
  18. Wilson, Richard A. (2001). The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Legitimizing the Post-Apartheid State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 14. ISBN 0521001943.
  19. "Thousands Celebrate Day of Unity". The Times. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 26 October 2016 via EBSCOhost. (subscription required (help)).
  20. "When To Go To South Africa". Go2Africa Pty (Ltd). Retrieved 2011-02-16"South Africans tend to take their annual holidays ... mid-December to late January"

External links

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