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Heritage Day (Afrikaans: Erfenisdag) is a South African public holiday celebrated on 24 September. On this day, South Africans across the spectrum are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people.
History of Heritage Day before 1995
In KwaZulu-Natal, 24 September was known as Shaka Day, in commemoration of the Zulu King, Shaka. Shaka was the legendary Zulu King who played an important role in uniting disparate Zulu clans into a cohesive nation. Each year people gather at King Shaka’s grave to honor him on this day.
The Public Holidays Bill presented to the Parliament of South Africa at the time did not have 24 September included on the list of proposed public holidays. As a result of this exclusion, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a South African political party with a large Zulu membership, objected to the bill. Parliament and the IFP reached a compromise and the day was given its present title and seen as a public holiday.
“ …when South Africans celebrate the diverse cultural heritage that makes up a “rainbow nation”. It is the day to celebrate the contribution of all South Africans to the building of South Africa(sic) ” ~ Lowry 21:1995
Celebration of Heritage Day
South Africans celebrate Heritage Day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day.
Former Western Cape Provincial Premier Ebrahim Rasool addressed the public at a Heritage Day celebration at the Gugulethu Heritage trail in 2007 in Gugulethu.
In Hout Bay, there is an army procession and a recreation of the battle fought there.
In 2005, a media campaign sought to “re-brand” the holiday as National Braai Day, in recognition of the South African culinary tradition of holding informal backyard barbecues, or braais.
On 5 September 2007, Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his appointment as patron of South Africa’s Braai (Barbecue) Day, affirming it to be a unifying force in a divided country (by donning an apron and tucking into a boerewors sausage). At the end of 2007 National Braai Day changed its name to Braai4Heritage and the initiative received the endorsement of South Africa’s National Heritage Council (NHC).
Organiser Jan Scannell announced that the aim is not to have a mass braai, but little ones with friends and family.