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EASTER AND CHRISTMAS TO BE CANCELLED IN SOUTH AFRICA?

easterAn SMS/Whatsapp message currently doing the rounds in South Africa states that this past Easter weekend (2015) was the last to be celebrated in South Africa. The basis for these claims is a supposed decision by the South African Law Reform Commission to remove Easter and Christmas from the South African public holiday calendar. The message states that there was a public hearing a month ago for Christians to attend and oppose this decision, but nobody turned up, and only the ACDP is opposing this decision at present.

 

The original Afrikaans email reads as follows:

LAASTE PAAS NAWEEK: Goeie Vrydag. Die South African Law Reform Commission het besluit dat Jesus se Kruisigingsdag en 25 Desember weggeneem word-DIT IS KWANSUIS DISKRIMINEREND TEENOOR ANDER GELOWE. 'n Maand terug was daar 'n openbare aanhoor of Christene die dae wil behou-GEEN CHRISTEN HET OPGEDAAG OF SKRIFTELIK DIT TEENGESTAAN NIE. Net die ACDP tans staan dit nog teë.

ONS HET 'N LAASTE KANS VOOR EINDE APRIL OM BRIEF TE SKRYF, U KAN OOK SKRYF, of SAAM MET VRIENDE SE HANDTEKENINGE OP U BRIEF.  Skryf aan: Post Net Suite #28, Private Bag x5, Elspark 1418.

GEEN BELEDIGINGS ASB? MOBILISEER U GEMEENTE DAT ALMAL SKRYF? Sal ons Christene hierdie keer saamstaan? SAL U ERENSTIG VINNIG AAN ALMAL STUUR ASB.  

 

There are some elements of truth in this message (public holidays are in review, especially those that are related to one particular group) but the message as a whole is a hoax.

 

The document referred to in the message is the ‘Discussion Paper 133, Project 25’ of the Statutory Law Revision. This document (ISBN: 978-0-621-43280-0) is administered/issued by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). Page 56 of this document deals with the revision of public holidays and says the following:

 

Theme 4: PERSONS AND OTHERS

(a) Public Holidays Act 36 of 1994.

2.153     The main purpose of the Public Holidays Act, 1994 (Act No.36 of 1994) is to make provision for a new calendar of public holidays and to provide that public holidays are paid holidays.

2.154     Section 2 of the Public Holidays Act declares the days mentioned in Schedule 1 as public holidays and Good Friday and Christmas Day are days observed by Christians. The declaration of the two main Christian holidays as paid public holidays sets about creating a differentiation between those who practice Christianity and those who practice other religious faiths in the country whose faith-based occasions are not included in the holidays. This provision is a violation of section 9(3) of the Constitution and amounts to direct discrimination on the basis of religion and belief. There is an element of prejudicial treatment in that the two main Christian holidays are declared as paid public holidays and adherents of other religions who celebrate other faith based holidays are disadvantaged in that their holidays are not declared public holidays and they do not have an automatic benefit of pay on those days. This section should be reviewed. It is suggested that either these holidays be reviewed or that equal weight be given to holidays of other faiths.

2.155     In its comment to the SALRC‘s Consultation Paper the DHA pointed out that research was conducted in this regard and in all countries there is no balance between different faith groups. The Public Holidays Act was enacted after public participation process. DHA has, following the complaint by the Commission responsible for, amongst others, religious matters, requested the Commission to investigate and consult the public widely on the matter and provide recommendations for consideration. Therefore, until such process is concluded, DHA will not consider any substantive amendments to the Public Holidays Act.

 

According to the document in discussion, we can therefore conclude the following:

1. NO decision has been made to remove Easter and Christmas from the calendar. This was definitely NOT the last Easter weekend in South Africa.

2. The issue of cancelling Easter and Christmas was never on the cards. The proposal referred to the fact that Christians are paid on their public holidays and people of other faiths are not. It was therefore suggested that either these holidays be reviewed (in terms of paid leave) or that equal weight be given to holidays of other faiths. In light of the South African constitution, this is a fair suggestion.

3. In chapter 2.155 of the document, the DHA clearly stated that “until such process is concluded, DHA will not consider any substantive amendments to the Public Holidays Act.”

4. It is simply not true that Christians don’t care and that the ACDP is the only one standing up for Christian interests. FORSA (Freedom of Religion South Africa) reports about an incident in 2012 when the government tried to interfere with these public holidays (http://forsa.org.za/good-friday-and-christmas-under-threat/):

As recently as 2012, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (“the CRL Commission”) held countrywide consultative public hearings (without specifically inviting the church’s input however) to assess the need for a review of public holidays. Their review followed four complaints received from individuals who complained that Christian public holidays amounted to unfair discrimination in that it favoured Christianity as a religion and furthermore “deepened religious divides”. Following a “Hands off Christmas and Good Friday!” protest by Christians at Constitution Hill, the matter was dropped.

 

CONCLUSION: The messages are therefore misleading even though they contain elements of truth, and can be classified as a hoax.