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SOUTH Africans could have five additional public holidays if the religious and cultural groups who attended a public meeting held by the province yesterday each have their way.
The meeting, chaired by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, saw about 50 people from different religious and interest groups join a discussion about the revision of public holidays. The main discussion was centred on Christian holidays like Good Friday and Christmas.
The commission had earlier received a number of complaints about the Public Holidays Act 36 of 1994.
This was one of several meetings to be held across the country to determine whether holidays are biased against other religions by incorporating mainly those of Christian significance.
Yesterday Khoisan chief in the Xoraxoukhoe tribe !Kora Hennie van Wyk said they were requesting two additional holidays to be added to the calendar which were significant to their culture. Van Wyk also proposed that some public holidays should be renamed.
“January 1 should be changed from New Year’s Day to Kingdom Day as it was the day the slaves were freed and it also coincides with the time to pray for rain before the planting season,” he said.
“The day after the harvest comes in, on September 21, should be Khoi and Bushman Day to celebrate and give thanks.”
Van Wyk said people who were passionate about their religion should be willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
Dutch Reformed Church national speaker Ben du Toit said on behalf of the large Christian group present: “We were unanimous on the agreement that Good Friday and Christmas should remain on the calendar as the majority of the people in the country associate themselves with Christianity. We would also advise for Ascension Day to be included.”
Du Toit said they questioned the 12 other “secular holidays”.
Representing the Muslim group present, Al Jama-ah political party leader Ganief Hendricks said while they agreed that the two Christian holidays be retained, they requested that the Islamic holy day, Eid, also be included.
“Eid-ul-Fitr is the day after we fast. Eid-ul-Adgha is also significant as this is when we celebrate Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah. The legislation leaves room for workers to exchange public holidays to suit their own practices,” he said.
Cape Chamber of Commerce president Michael Bagraim said: “The country’s public holidays need to be reviewed as it affects the economy negatively. We need to understand that if the economy doesn’t produce, we won’t have anything to celebrate.”
Despite the small turnout, Commission CEO Pheagane Moreroa said the hearings were aimed at social cohesion as a way to preserve South Africa’s heritage, regardless of creed, culture or religion.
“During our previous meeting in the other provinces, we were accused of attacking the Christian holidays, which is not the case.
“We also cannot allow that 365 days be allocated to public holidays,” he said.
He said the public meetings would be completed by the end of July.
Thereafter they will be given two months to validate and compile the submissions before presenting these to Parliament.