Five religious groups made recommendations on public holidays to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities in Durban on Thursday.
The public hearing at the Durban City Hall was attended by more than 100 people.
Not all the groups wanted their religious holidays to be made official. Some just wanted the government, their employers and the education department to recognise the days.
The Hindu community wanted Diwali to be made an official public holiday.
SA Hindu Maha Sabha president Ashwin Trikamjee said the essence of Diwali was universal as it was the festival of light.
“There are a few impediments we suffer from because of ignorance. Employers insist that Hindus should work on Diwali or take a pay cut,” he said.
“We are asking all South Africans to participate in this important event as we equally join you when you are having your religious holidays.”
Muslim community representative Suleman Dangor said it was not practical to ask the government to make Eid and Ramadan official public holidays, but it was important that the days be recognised.
“Employers must be sensitive in the workplace and the schools should ensure that no examinations take place,” Dangor said.
The Nazareth Baptist Church, popularly known as the Shembe church, which has more than seven million members, said it had two days it wanted the government to recognise. These were March 10, the day its founding leader Isaiah Shembe arrived in KwaZulu-Natal, and May 2, the day he died.
Spokesman Nkululeko Mthethwa said the church wanted members to be allowed to observe these days.
Christians wanted the birth of Jesus Christ, which falls on December 25, and Good Friday, to remain in the calendar.
African Christian Democratic party deputy president Wayne Thring said the group wanted Ascension Day to be reintroduced as a public holiday. It was taken off the calendar without any consultation, he contended.
The Rastafarian community had five religious days, and said it wanted the government to make at least two of these holidays official. - Sapa