Human Rights Day (Public Holiday)

Remember the past and celebrate the future on Human Rights Day


Human Rights Day (21 March) was officially declared a public holiday in 1994 following the inauguration of former president Nelson Mandela. This national day-off is both a stark reminder of the tragic Sharpeville massacre and a celebration of South Africa’s unique constitution, which gives equal rights to all.

THE SHARPEVILLE MASSACRE

On Monday, 21 March in 1960 police opened fire, without order, on a crowd that had gathered at the Sharpeville station to protest pass laws, stipulations that required Africans to carry books and produce them for law enforcement officials on request; 69 unarmed people were killed and another 180 were injured.  

While little is known about what really sparked this tragic event, Joe Tlholoe, one of the nation's most acclaimed journalists who was a high school pupil at the time, recalled that the Pan Africanist Congress – under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe – appealed to all African men to take a stand against such a humiliating law, leave their pass books (also known as the dompas) at home, go to their nearest police station and demand to be incarcerated for not carrying the demeaning document. The police then, upon seeing the masses of people marching, opened fire on the crowd in a state of fear.

Today, the South African constitution protects individual rights, like the right to move freely without a pass book, with its inclusion of the Bill of Rights (only a supermajority of Parliament can influence any changes to the bill), and citizens are entitled to basic human dignity and more in the country’s current democracy.

THINGS TO DO ON HUMAN RIGHT’S DAY IN CAPE TOWN

To commemorate this historic day and to celebrate how far our nation’s progressed, why not have a look at our overview of things to do for Human Right’s Day in Cape Town.

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2016 CALENDAR OF PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN SOUTH AFRICA

JANUARY

1 JAN

New Year's Day

MARCH

21 MAR

Human Rights Day

25 MAR

Good Friday

27 MAR

Family Day (Easter Sunday)

APRIL

27 APR

Freedom Day

MAY

1 MAY

Worker’s Day

JUNE

16 JUN

Youth Day

AUGUST

9 AUG

National Women's Day

SEPTEMBER

24 SEP

Heritage Day

DECEMBER

16 DEC

Day of Reconciliation

25 DEC

Christmas Day

26 DEC

Day of Goodwill

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Plan your year with our nifty overview of public holidays in South Africa. Alternatively, have a squiz at our guide to annual March events to find out about more hot happenings taking place during the month.

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Cape Town Events Calendar
January 2017
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