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South African Calls For Deepavali Public Holiday

Source: South African Press Association (Pretoria)
Posted: Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Most recent follow-up news item: March 26, 2022

The South African Hindu Dharma Sabha and the South African Hindu Youth Movement have written to the president of South Africa, the minister of Home Affairs and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (aka. CRL Rights Commission), to request that Deepavali be included in the list of annual public holidays in South Africa, via an amendment to the Public Holidays Act 36 of 1994.

Almost a decade ago (2012-06-11), South Africa's CRL Rights Commission had announced that it had been tasked with a review of the list of official public holidays in South Africa, with a view to reducing the number of Christian public holidays, hastening to clarify, once the process began, that "the Commission has no intention to propose the removal of Christmas and Good Friday but it has to listen to all sides in this inquiry" (2012-07-09). The CRL Rights Commission's report, submitted in the spring of the following year (2013-04-29), remained without effect.

Almost 10 years before that (2003-11-06), then South African Minister of Home Affairs and President of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, had similarly been mandated by the South African Cabinet to chair an inter-departmental task team to review the South African official public holidays calendar.

Despite the issue of declaring public holidays for other religions (2007-03-30) or ethnic groups (2009-11-22), resurfacing regularly, nothing ever came out of either consultation, and the "Public Holidays Act 36 of 1994", revised in 1995, stands unchanged to this day.

In the case of Deepavali, in South Africa, there is an issue with the calculation of the actual date to use, as South African Hindus belonging to the Hindu Maha Sabha follow the rules of Northern India, while South African Hindus belonging to the KwaZulu-Natal Tamil Federation follow the rules of Southern India. Due to the way these rules are constructed, northern and southern Deepavali will differ by a day in about 40 percent of cases.

In 2007, during one of the regular Deepavali date spats between the 2 communities, the then head of the Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, stated that "There should be no confusion. We have an agreement in place that stipulates that we will celebrate Diwali as a a united community on one day and alternate the dates of the south and north Indian communities each year. Last year, we observed Diwali on the south Indian date, and this year we will use the north Indian date. India is celebrating Diwali on November 9. This is the official date.".

But Bala Naidoo, the then president of the KwaZulu-Natal Tamil Federation, rejoined that "the agreement to alternate dates was merely an arrangement made when we made a call to government for Diwali to be declared a public holiday", and going on to clarify matters beyond any doubt by adding that "We wanted to speak with one voice, but the agreement does not stand any more.".

Links and References

Below are links to the news stories referred to in the above "South African Calls For Deepavali Public Holiday" news story, as well as links to subsequents news stories which refer to the present news story.