New Public Holidays since 1994

21 March: Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day was officially declared as a public holiday in 1994, in remembrance of the Sharpeville massacre which took place on 21 March 1960, and to celebrated South Africa’s Bill of Rights which is enshrined in the Constitution . On Monday, 21 March in 1960 police opened fire on a crowd that had gathered at the Sharpeville station to protest pass laws and killed 69 unarmed people injuring 180.

27 April: Freedom Day

The first democratic election in South Africa in which every South Africa adult could vote irrespective of their race was held on the 27 April 1994. Freedom Day commemorates the first democratic elections held in South Africa on 27 April 1994.

16 June: Youth Day 1994

The Soweto Uprising which commemorates the events of 1976 studentprotest against the introduction of Afrikaans as the language of instruction of half their school curriculum has been a public holiday since 1994 known as Youth Day .Youth Day is a national holiday in honour of all the young people who lost their lives in the struggle against Apartheid and Bantu Education.

Day of Reconciliation - 16 December since 1995

The Day of the Vow, 16 December, was the public holiday during apartheid and it retained its status in post-apartheid South Africa as a Day of Reconciliation effect from 1995. It marks two historical events that took place on that date namely: the Battle of Blood River on 16 December 1838 when the the Voortrekkers took a Vow before God, and the formation of ANC military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe

Heritage Day - 24 September 2006

Heritage Day was announced as a new public holiday on 24 September 2006. Heritage day identify ‘all aspects of South African diverse culture which are both tangible and difficult to pin down taking into account the country’s historical inheritance, creative expression, eleven official languages (Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga) and the food we eat as well as the land in which we live.’

• South African Government Info.South Africa's people [Online] Available at [Accessed on 17 November 2013]
• South African Government Info. Public holidays [Online] Available at [Accessed on 17 November 2013]
• South African Government Info. Public Holidays Act, Act No 36 of 1994 [Online] Available at [Accessed on 17 November 2013]

Last updated : 25-Apr-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 25-Apr-2014