They say that all good things come to an end, thankfully this remains true for horrid atrocities as well. One such ending took place in 1991 with the ending of apartheid, a system of racial segregation that existed in South Africa on the back of legislation introduced by the National Party. The Day of Reconciliation was introduced in 1994 as a way to heal the rift between the people of South Africa, and bring harmony to a nation still suffering from decades of injustice.

History of Day of Reconciliation

The history of the Day of Reconciliation is the history of a nation suffering under the auspices of colonialism and the inherent racism that existed as a part of this practice. While apartheid became legislated in 1948, racial segregation had been a reality in South Africa since the reign of the Dutch Empire in 1652, and saw no change when the British took possession of the country in 1795. Things only got worse in 1950 when non-white political representation was abolished in the country. While it served to deeper entrench the policies of racial segregation, it also sparked off a series of rebellions, violence, and a trade and long arms embargo against the country.

The date for the Day of Reconciliation was selected due to its significance to both the Afrikaner and African people. For the Afrikaner it was known as the Day of the Covenant, a religious holiday celebrating a victory over the Zulus by the Voortrekker’s in 1838 at the Battle of Blood River. For the Africans it was a day of one of an important protest in 1910 against racial discrimination. In 1961 the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the “Spear o the Nation”, was established, an armed force of the ANC. The first acts of sabotage and violent resistance against the apartheid leaders also happened on that day in history.

How to celebrate Day of Reconciliation

Celebrating the Day of Reconciliation involves a deep look at our lives and the world that we live in. Take some time to educate yourself on colonialism and how it affected, and still affects the people who suffered under it. Colonialism and racism often go hand in hand, and their effects don’t end with the people who lived under them, but carry down through their children and grandchildren. Systems of governance and societal pressures don’t change overnight, so spend your day learning how to dig the last roots of it out of your neighbourhood and country.