South Africans have been asked to revisit the number of public holidays in the country following protests that they discriminate non-christians.
Countrywide meetings will be held over the next few days to discuss the number of public holidays the country must have each year.
The meetings are being organised by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.
The governmental body has been tasked to promote and protect rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities. But the hearings have already angered some groups.
According to the commission’s statement to the media, “a number of complaints and requests have been received, concerning the fact that South Africa’s public holidays only acknowledge christianity and discriminate unfairly against other religions.
“According to its mandate, we received a number of complaints concerning the biased and unfair scheduling of the Public Holidays Act 36 of 1994”.
The commission said the aim of the meetings was to encourage public participation and collate information to determine whether the current situation was discriminatory.
But some political parties have slammed the hearings. Freedom Front Plus said, “the public hearings on public holidays in South Africa is a dangerous process, which could threaten social cohesion, reconciliation and nation building.”
According to the party’s Corne Mulder, the commission should note that 78 percent of South Africa’s residents indicated that they were christians.
The party said it “should be noted that the only two christian holidays, which is officially recognised is Good Friday and Christmas.”
“Both these days are not only recognised in South Africa but are specifically also celebrated internationally,” he said.
But the powerful Southern African Catholic Bishop’s Conference welcomed the hearings and said they ‘value the debate’.
The body’s Chris Townsend said he hoped the economists would not enter the debate and allow all people to express themselves.
“We are dealing with history and we should not be exclusive of any religion when debating the issue,” he said.
Townsend said the debate was necessary and should be done in an open and public manner.
The public meetings will take place in Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.
South Africa has 12 public holidays as determined by the Public Holidays Act.
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