Other faiths also want public holidays

2012-06-12 00:00

CAPE TOWN — There was widespread reaction yesterday to the proposed review of South Africa’s 12 public holidays.

The telephone lines of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities were buzzing as scores of people called to comment.

Members of the public also faxed and e-mailed submissions to the commission, which plans to hold public meetings in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and the Western Cape this month in which the matter will be discussed.

The commission said a number of complaints and requests had been received to the effect that public holidays only marked events on the Christian calendar and that other faiths’ holy days were being discriminated against.

Ela Gandhi, a granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, was one of the complainants. She said in reply to an question yesterday that as far back as 1995 she had sent a memorandum to the government suggesting four additional public holidays.

“Various religious leaders met at the time, and we decided that Diwali, Eid, the Jewish New Year and Easter Monday, which is especially important to the traditional African religions, should be recognised as public holidays. We have received so many complaints from people saying that schools schedule exams during Diwali and Eid. The children cannot then observe those days. Don’t misunderstand me. We are not saying scrap Christian holidays. We are asking for recognition of these four days.”

Ras Peace, a leading Johannesburg Rastafarian, believes Africa Day, which is observed on May 25, should also appear on South Africa’s list of public holidays, as the issues affecting the continent can be highlighted in that way.

The only two officially recognised Christian holidays are Good Friday and Christmas Day. The Reverend Cassie Aucamp of the Reformed Churches in South Africa said there was no Biblical demand for these two days to be public holidays. In reformed churches, he added, the celebration of Easter, Resurrection, Ascension and Christmas were left to the discretion of the congregation. Aucamp said the only “real” Christian holiday was the first day of each week — the Sunday, during which Christ’s ressurection from the dead is celebrated.

Nabeweya Malick, a spokesperson for the Muslim Judicial Council, said the council would probably ask in its submissions for Muslim staff to be granted a day’s leave for the two Eid festivals.

People who wish to make submissions should phone 011 537 7600 or visit www.crlcommission.org.za.

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