Last Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of the Day of Reconciliation. While the name speaks for itself, it’s interesting to look at the the history behind our public holidays, in order to get a better understanding of what it is that we’re commemorating on these days.
The 16th December has long been a public holiday in South Africa. Under the Apartheid regime, the date celebrated the Voortrekkers victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838, and was known as the ‘Day of the Vow’ or ‘Dingaan’s Day’. The Afrikaners vowed that should they win the battle, they would build a church and that they and their descendants would observe the day as a day of thanksgiving.
On the other side of the political spectrum the 16th December marks the founding of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the ANC that was formed in 1961.
The date was chosen because it was significant to both Afrikaner and African cultures. The holiday came into effect in 1994 after the end of Apartheid, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity.
Click here to read a brief summary of the meanings behind the public holidays that we celebrate in South Africa.