Heritage Day is a South African public holiday celebrated on 24 September. On this day, South Africans are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people.
In KwaZulu-Natal, 24 September was known as Shaka Day, in commemoration of Shaka, the Zulu king, on the presumed date of his death in 1828. Shaka played an important role in uniting disparate Zulu clans into a cohesive nation. Each year people gather at his grave to honour him on this day. The Public Holidays Bill presented to the new democratic Parliament of South Africa in 1996 did not have 24 September included on the list of proposed public holidays. As a result of this exclusion, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a South African political party with a large Zulu membership, objected to the bill. Parliament and the ANC reached a compromise and the day was given its present title and accepted as a public holiday:
…when South Africans celebrate the diverse cultural heritage that makes up a “rainbow nation”. It is the day to celebrate the contribution of all South Africans to the building of South Africa
South Africans celebrate the day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this.
Former Western Cape Provincial Premier Ebrahim Rasool addressed the public at a Heritage Day celebration at the Gugulethu Heritage trail in 2007 in Gugulethu. In Hout Bay, there is an army procession and a recreation of the battle fought there.
In 2007, Jan Scannell (known as “Jan Braai”) started a media campaign proposing that the holiday be renamed as National Braai Day, in commemoration of the culinary tradition of informal backyard barbecues, known as braais. On 5 September 2007, Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his appointment as patron of South Africa’s Braai Day, affirming it to be a unifying force in a divided country (by donning an apron and tucking into a boerewors sausage). In 2008, the initiative received the endorsement of South Africa’s National Heritage Council. Scannell said that the aim is to hold small events with friends and family, and not to have a mass braai. To Mofele writing for News24 and Herman Wasserman writing for Africa Is a Country have criticised National Braai Day for making people forget the history and the original meaning of why the day was created.