New look at public holidays

2012-06-11 00:00

CAPE TOWN — A review of public holidays — especially Christian holy days — will be launched in four provinces this month.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities is planning public meetings in Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State to discuss public holidays.

South Africa has 12 public holidays.

In a press statement issued last week the commission said a number of “complaints and requests” have been received about the fact that public holidays recognise only Christianity and discriminate unfairly against the holidays of other faiths.

The statement said that in terms of its mandate the commission received complaints and requests regarding the partiality and unfair schedule of the Public Holidays Act 1994.

The purpose of the meetings is to encourage public and community participation. Information will also be gathered from communities to establish whether discrimination is taking place.

After the meetings a report containing recommendations will be sent to the Department of Home Affairs and the Presidency for a possible review of the existing legislation.

Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut CEO Christo van der Rheede said on inquiry yesterday that South Africa has too many holidays.

“Holidays have a negative impact on productivity and economic growth. If we carry on like this, we run the risk of no longer being regarded as a productive country.”

The country could not have a situation where every faith community had an official holiday.

“I know that companies make internal arrangements with their staff during Jewish and Muslim festivals. Two Christian holidays, Good Friday and Christmas, are important, but some of the Christian holidays can be abolished,” said Van der Rheede, who was speaking in a personal capacity.

Cape Chamber of Commerce president Michael Bagraim said the business community would definitely make a submission for a reduced number of holidays.

“We believe public holidays should be on either a Monday or a Friday. They have an enormous effect on business. The month of April alone is capable of paralysing small businesses because half of the month consists of holidays. The economy is not, therefore, very productive over this period.”

Bagraim, who also serves on the Cape Council of the Jewish Board of Deputies, said the Jewish community is very small and he did not believe they would lobby for any Jewish holy days to be declared public holidays.

People who want to make submissions should phone the commission at 011 537 7600.

Details are also available at

public inquiry launched: Complaints over Christian bias on calendar

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