Guest Column

Many South Africans don't care who's celebrating as long as they get time off

2015-07-02 17:41


South Africans are all for equal rights and freedom of religion – especially when it comes to public holidays. So we should all throw our weight behind the push for consideration to be given to all religious holidays.

 The South African Law Reform Commission believes that there is an element of “prejudicial treatment” to the current public holiday calendar because Christmas Day and Good Friday are paid holidays while important days of minority faiths are not. This put the minority religions at a disadvantage, the commission said.

This issue isn’t new. In 2012, various public meetings were held to discuss this very topic, under the auspices of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. Seeing as most South Africans still get off on Christmas and Good Friday – unless you work for Woolworths or a petrol station, or Woolworths at a petrol station – those meetings were obviously a waste of time.

According to the 2001 census the overwhelming majority of South Africans, nearly 80%, are Christian – about 43 million of the 54-million population. The rest – the 15% of the population who have no religion, the 1.4% who are undetermined about their faith, Muslims at 1.5%, Hindus at 1.2%, Jews at 0.2%, those who have African traditional beliefs 0.3%, and those with other beliefs at 0.6% – add up to about 11 million people. 

That’s a large number of people who are forced to take time off work because of another religion. In the spirit of equality let’s make sure everyone gets to celebrate. Day of the Undetermined, the Day of the Other – call it what you will, but don’t punish people just because they have no religious convictions.

Let’s just hope the Law Reform Commission gets its way – and that more holidays are added to the calendar, not the other way around. Yes, public holidays cost the economy billions. But South Africa had only 12 of them this year. 

If this push doesn’t work, people may start migrating en masse to India, which has at least 21 public holidays depending on the state, according to travel website WeGo. Just stay away from Mexico, with its stingy seven public holidays a year.

The other solution is to can all public holidays and tack another 12 official leave days on to the 15 compulsory ones. That way, people can put in leave for the holidays they want. And 27 compulsory days of paid leave sounds good. 

Read more on:    public holidays

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