The Day of Reconciliation

Today we celebrate Reconciliation Day and the history behind the holiday.

The Day of Reconciliationalso previously called the Day of the Vow, the Day of the Covenant, or Dingane’s Day, is a public holiday observed in South Africa on December 16.

Initially, this holiday commemorated the  victory of the Voortrekkers over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838 . Prior to the battle, the Voortrekkers had taken a vow that, if they succeeded in defeating the Zulus, they would build a church and observe the day as a religious holiday. This observance was recognised as Dingane’s Day, which was named after the Zulu King, King Dingane and was later established as a public holiday in 1910.

In 1952 the National Party passed the Public Holidays Act, which changed Dingane’s Day to the Day of the Covenant and officially declared the day a religious holiday. In 1980 the holiday was changed to the Day of the Vow. This public holiday prohibited activities such as sports events and theatre performances from performing on this religious day.

This public holiday became increasingly significant in 1961, when the African National Congress’ (ANC) military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”) was formed.

After the first democratic elected government was established in South Africa in 1994, the holiday was officially renamed the Day of Reconciliation. This public holiday gained more attention when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examined apartheid human rights abuses, started their investigation in a ceremony on 16 December 1995.

The 16 December is celebrated as a public holiday so that South Africans can foster a sense of national unity and racial harmony.