Day of Reconciliation
National Reconciliation Day was adopted at the start of our democracy when it was envisioned that reconciliation, peace and stability would be a defining character of our new democratic nation.
The Day of Reconciliation is traditionally held on the 16th of December each year, and each year we have a renewed opportunity to reach out to one another to reflect and continue our dialogue about our shared past, and in so doing reconcile with one another in the interests of strengthening our society.
This year, the theme of reconciliation month is: “The Year of Charlotte Maxeke: Promoting Reconciliation During the 25th Anniversary of the Constitution”. The National Department of Sport, Arts and Culture in collaboration with the Northern Cape Provincial Government launched the 2021 Reconciliation Month on Thursday, 02 December 2021 at Tol Speelman Community Hall in Upington, Northern Cape Province.
The 16th of December was specifically chosen as the Day of Reconciliation, as it holds special significance for many South Africans.
In apartheid South Africa the 16th of December was known as Day of the Vow. On the 16th of December 1838, Voortrekkers on the eve of the Battle of Blood River took a Vow before God that they would build a church, and that they and their descendants would observe the day as a day of thanksgiving, should they be granted victory against the oncoming Zulu army.
The second significant historical event took place on the 16th of December 1961 when Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), was formed. Prior to its formation, the ANC had largely approached the fight against apartheid through passive resistance, but after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, where peaceful protestors were indiscriminately shot by police, passive resistance was no longer seen as an effective approach in bringing apartheid to an end.
With the advent of democracy in South Africa, the 16th of December retained its status as a public holiday. South Africa’s first non-racial and democratic government was tasked with promoting reconciliation and national unity. The 16th of December acknowledged both Afrikaner and liberation struggle traditions, and it was subsequently renamed the Day of Reconciliation. This new interpretation of an existing day of significance allowed for the creation of a new interpretation of the day from one of vengeance, bloodshed and destruction, to one of peace and creation. On the 16th of December 1995, the Day of Reconciliation was celebrated as a public holiday in South Africa for the first time.
The BCMDA wishes all South Africans a peaceful, and safe, Day of Reconciliation.