Day of Reconciliation: Uniting against discrimination

16th Dec 2020

UKZN Extended Learning

– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

The 16th of December is a significant date in South African history as two key turbulent events took place from different periods in time. According to South African History Online, the first of these was in 1838, when the Battle of Blood River took place between the Voortrekkers and the Zulus. The second historical event took place in 1961 when Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was formed. This was the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), which was launched to wage an armed struggle against the apartheid government. As a way to acknowledge the significance of the 16th of December in both struggles, it was then renamed the Day of Reconciliation in 1994 as a way to mend the broken ties between South Africans and bring back peace to the nation in hopes to bring about healing from the past injustices. 

The meaning of Day of Reconciliation has evolved from what it was in 1994 for South Africans today. A day that contained a strong emotional attachment to various cultural groups, is now a symbol of reconciliation and unity. The theme for this year is, “United in action against racism, gender-based violence, and other intolerances”.  Although this is a South African holiday, the message behind it is applicable worldwide. Throughout history, countries worldwide have had their distinctive challenges with prejudice. In order for us to work towards making a better world, we can appreciate the importance of mending relationships and fostering harmony. Starting with the eradication of the discrimination of ethnic groups and minorities.

How can you celebrate the Day of Reconciliation this December?

We need to take time to partake in self-introspection as well as educating ourselves about the real and uncomfortable truth of this county’s past. Especially the effects of colonialism to this day and how it gave birth to racism, which is still being carried down from generation to generation. Acknowledgment of the gruelling process and working towards eradicating bigotry is a step in the right direction even though we are faced with the reality that it will not happen overnight.

  1. Learn and be well informed about the history of South Africa
  2. Learn about the most influential figures in South African history
  3. Generate awareness for the day on social media using hashtags #dayofreconciliation, #forgiveandforget and #unitedasone
  4. Watch documentaries such as ‘Long Night’s Journey into Day’ (2000), ‘The Forgiven’ (2018), ‘Invictus’ (2009) and ‘Mandela’s Miracle’ (2011)
  5. Practice forgiveness. Take a moment to let go of past grudges and reconnect with your loved ones by mending broken relationships

“Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice” – Nelson Mandela