Petition calls for 8 May to be declared National Ancestors’ Day

"This is not a religious matter, it is a matter of spirituality. All Africans are spiritual," says Contralesa.

Traditional healer Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) has started a petition to have a National Ancestors’ Day on 8 May 2022.

It hopes to have this day declared a national holiday in the first week of May, which includes Africa Day, and is celebrated as International Africa Month.

Secretary general of Contralesa Zolani Mkiva said the day was about the liberation of the African voice across the globe: “This is not a religious matter, it is a matter of spirituality. All Africans are spiritual.’’

Mkiva argued that even those who do not believe in ancestors should take the opportunity to observe their own spirituality: “We are a product of those who came before us.’’

Sangoma and spiritual storyteller Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi, who is also a partner along with Castle Milk Stout, said National Ancestors’ Day would be a catalyst to economic and social acceptance of people who believe and practice African spirituality.

“Ancestors' Day is a foundation we are laying to change systems and structures that have marginalised Africans. This is where people who go through 'intwaso' [initiation to be a sangoma] can be given a sabbatical to go honour the journey and not lose their jobs.”

Ndlanzi said that this day would collapse distortions around African spirituality and would set a tone for the rest of Africa: “The stories of African history and spirituality have been told by the very same people who have distorted it.’’

She described to 'phahla' (thanksgiving) as an empowering experience that can influence one’s reality: “It really changes your world to that which you are seeking of your world to become.’’

Vusumuzi Ngxande, host and producer of an award-winning podcast that explores questions about African spirituality called The Journey Kwantu, also spoke to Eyewitness News on the matter. Ngxande’s podcast unearths knowledge on spirituality. But he said that the term "African spirituality" isn't necessarily the right one to use when considering the myriad cultural beliefs of different African people.

“Although I don't particularly believe that this name is apt, I do think such an observance is crucial in recognising the strides that this generation is making in revitalising our spiritual history."

National Ancestors’ Day is described as a day that would acknowledge African spirituality - whatever that might encompass - and the countless individuals that practice it. Although debate on what encapsulates African spirituality remains unclear, destigmatising some of its belief systems is top priority for everyone involved.

Over 1,700 people have signed this petition thus far.