Today is Heritage Day. This day was placed on the calendar after the 1994 negotiated settlement. The celebrations differ from South African to South African, but on the first commemoration of Heritage Day in 1995, President Nelson Mandela said the day was introduced because the government realised that “our rich and diverse cultural heritage has the power to help us build our new nation”. Heritage is therefore not only intended to celebrate diversity, but also to help build unity.
It is interesting that 24 September was initially not on the list of public holidays when the Public Holidays Bill was presented in Parliament in 1995. The Inkatha Freedom Party insisted that this day, upon which the Zulu nation traditionally celebrated Shaka Day (commemorating the Zulu King’s conciliatory role between the different Zulu tribes), be added to the list of public holidays. The compromise accepted was that the day would be called Heritage Day – and would apply to all South Africans, and not just to the Zulus.