South Africans were encouraged to celebrate their cultural traditions, communities and heritage on Tuesday 24th September.

It began as “Shaka Day” or “Shaka’s Day”, a day which commemorates the legendary King Shaka Zulu on the presumed date of his death. In 1995, the 24th of September was not included in the list of proposed Public Holidays presented to Parliament, the IFP objected to the bill and a compromise was reached, the day was given its present title and declared a public holiday.

In 2005, a media campaign sought to “re-brand” the holiday as National Braai Day, in recognition of the South African culinary tradition of holding informal backyard braais. On 5 September 2007, Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his appointment as patron of South Africa’s Braai Day, affirming it to be a unifying force in a divided country.

We asked some of the past and present RMB National Squad rowers just what Heritage Day means to them, and how they celebrated the 24th of September.

“It’s symbolic for me that this Heritage Day, I will be back on the water training with the RMB National Squad. Having been away for the past 3 years it’s lovely to know that when I get off the water, I’ll be spending the day with the family and friends around the braai – which I miss when I’m in the USA”. – Tayla-May Bentley, Silver Medalist, U23 World Rowing Championships

“Heritage Day means the world to me as it’s my birthday. Heritage Day symbolizes our heritage and cultures as people and for a change no one died on this day in history. I will be celebrating it with my family chilled around the braai”. – Sizwe Lawrence Ndlovu, Gold Medalist, 2012 Summer Olympics

“This year’s Heritage Day is quite special as it marks the start of our 2020 season and the beginning of the road to Tokyo. After qualifying the men’s pair for the Olympics 3 weeks ago we have had a short break to prepare the mind for the next 10 months, and what better day to start the season than Heritage Day. As an athlete I will reflect back on all the times I have worn the green and gold and how special it is to race down the track with South Africa written on my back and this epic country’s support behind me”. – Lawrence Brittain, Silver Medalist, 2016 Summer Olympics

Tutu was quoted as saying “We’re going to have this wonderful thing on the 24th of this month… when we all gather round one fire… it’s a fantastic thing, a very simple idea. Irrespective of your politics, of your culture, of your race, of your whatever, hierdie ding doen ons saam (this thing we do together) … just South Africans doing one thing together, and recognising that we are a fantastic nation”.

Here’s to celebrating our heritage with friends and family and Happy Birthday Sizwe!