Johannesburg - Christian holidays aren’t going anywhere, said Gauteng Premier David Makhura. After all, he added, the ANC was founded in a church.
He was speaking on Tuesday at the Gauteng Faith-Based Organisation (FBO) Summit in Turffontein.
The summit, which started on Monday, is being held between the Gauteng government and the FBO sector to forge religious tolerance and moral regeneration.
It was attended by more than 600 delegates from many religions.
Makhura said the government wanted to build a “socially cohesive” society that appreciated each other’s values.
The province was aware of rumours that the government had a policy to scrap the Easter holidays.
“There is no truth to this. In fact, it is impossible for the ANC to take such a position; you and I will not allow it. The ANC was founded in a church,” he said.
He also slammed those religious leaders who fed on their followers’ vulnerabilities.
“We have seen an increase in asking congregants to drink petrol, eat rats or snakes while others rape congregants or confess to practising witchcraft. Together, let us find lasting solutions to these scourges,” he said.
Archbishop William Slattery, SA Catholic Bishops Conference spokesman, welcomed Makhura’s statements.
“If you consider that 73 percent of the population is Christian, it was the right thing to do.
“We do not see this as an imposition on other religions, especially on the Muslims who, in fact, have a great respect for Christ.
“We, as a population and country, need times and specific occasions to celebrate these holidays which represent the last surviving remnants for Christians and should be seen as an anchor in their lives,” he said.
The Muslim Judicial Council agreed, with spokeswoman Nabeweya Malick welcoming the move.
“In today’s society moving more and more towards materialistic things, this is a good move. We need contact with religion. We’re all becoming less and less God-conscious.
“I see cancelling religious holidays as removing this consciousness,” she said.
Eid should, however, also be declared a public holiday as this is another day that raises religious consciousness and promotes harmony, she said.
Last month, as Muslims celebrated Eid, there was a call to have the day declared a public holiday.
The Commission for the Promotion of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities is proposing three existing public holidays be dropped - December 26, Easter Monday and December 16 - and that three days in a calendar year be designated as “holy days”, allowing individuals to determine when they’ll take them.
The commission has received a plethora of complaints from religious communities over the past three years concerning the issue of paid religious holidays especially from the Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Rastafarian and African religions.
Commission chairwoman Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva recently told Independent Media the commission recommended the Day of Goodwill (December 26), Easter Monday and December 16 go and three other days be designated as “holy days”.
She said people would determine when they would take these paid holidays which would be negotiated with their employers.