Tuesday, August 03, 2004

It’s been a year 

You can see how it would happen. It's the silly season, a slow news week, and the Sunday Times needs a scoop. Our intrepid reporter searches through the week's press releases, desperately seeking something newsworthy, and comes across a note from Home Affairs. The note says that a review of South Africa’s public holidays is being carried out, and nothing is off the agenda. A quick phone call brings the comment that Christian holidays reflect the priorities of the apartheid era government. Bingo! You end up with a headline like this: “Christmas may be cancelled”. It looks more impressive in 40 point type over your Sunday cornflakes.

South Africa currently has 12 public holidays a year. We also get a freebie when there is an election, so everyone can vote. The current list includes Christmas, Boxing Day, Good Friday & Easter Monday, New Year’s Day, plus a series of significant dates. The dates were changed when the democratic government came in, so they are now landmarks in the struggle: the anniversaries of the Soweto uprising, the Sharpeville massacre, the first democratic elections, and others. They have kept one or two old ones as well: December 16th used to be celebrated as the anniversary of the Battle of Blood River, when the Afrikaners made their pact with God, who enabled them (with the aid of superior firepower) to massacre 3,000 Zulus. This date is now Reconciliation Day, marked by separate and tense ceremonies on opposite banks of the river in question. How’s that for a metaphor?

Anyway, the problem with public holidays that are specific to certain dates is that they often fall in the middle of the week. Worse, they can fall on a weekend, in which case you don’t get the full benefit. Nobody likes losing a public holiday to a Sunday, and the business community don’t like the disruptive effects of holidays that break the week up. The plan, therefore, is presumably to consider celebrating certain anniversaries on the closest Monday or Friday. Sounds logical and pragmatic to me. Sodding newspapers.

Listening to: Blondie. Yeah!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?