Madiba holiday ‘too expensive’

2013-12-19 00:00

MANY South Africans think Nelson Mandela should be honoured with a new public holiday. That’s a very bad idea, say economists.

Shortly after the former president’s death, 90% of respondents to a survey conducted among young social media users by survey company Pondering Panda said a new holiday would be the best way to celebrate him.

But Mike Schüssler of said, “The problem is that South Africa cannot afford yet another public holiday.”

The country’s economy earns about R1 billion every workday, and loses 70% of this every public holiday.

“Factories and mines are especially hit by public holidays, which halt their productivity. Shops are not so badly affected. People still shop and fill up with petrol.”

He said it would be better to rename one of the country’s existing public holidays after Mandela.

Dawie Roodt of the Efficient Group said too many public holidays are bad for a free market economy.

“A holiday forces the economy to a halt and leads to huge losses. Workers still have to be paid.”

He said existing public holidays should actually be pared back.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said the federation supports a Mandela Day.

“It is important that Mandela be remembered for years and years. His birthday [July 18] would be ideal as a celebration of his life.”

Craven said public holidays are an important way to celebrate South Africa’s culture and history.

Solidarity spokesperson Johan Kruger said an existing day off should rather be renamed to honour Mandela. “Freedom Day [April 27] is the most suitable. Nelson Mandela’s life was about freedom for everyone.”

He agreed that the economy could not afford more days off.

Home Affairs spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said a new public holiday can only be proclaimed by the president on the recommendation of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Language Communities, after wide consultations and debate by Parliament.

The commission was not available to comment yesterday.

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