Working, loving and living in SA

15 Sep 2023

It’s not just black and white

The 24th of September is a special day to us all. After Freedom Day, it’s our most widely appreciated and celebrated public holiday because it represents what was once used to divide us, and how we have turned it around into what makes us stronger, together. In all our races, cultures, beliefs and traditions, we can kick back and celebrate our heritage.

Did you know that Heritage Day was not even on the original list of public holidays when we were drawing up our new calendar after 1994? It was the Inkatha Freedom Party that refused to back down, because back then it was Shaka Day, celebrated especially in KZN. A compromise was reached, expanding the original purpose of uniting isiZulu communities, into uniting all of us on 24 September.

Celebrating each unique contribution to our most diverse of nations can be a bit tricky with our history, and it was for this reason that in 2007, we chose to add to the day once more. It became Braai Day. Why? There is evidence from Swartkrans that we have been braaing in this country for over a million years. Braaing was seen as the thing that we could all unite around, and it made international headlines when we did. The Economist, The Oklahoman and even The New York Times ran headlines about our “Barbecue” Day (“Barbecue”? Mxm, shem), due in no small part to our late, great, and much beloved Archbishop Desmond Tutu being named as the patron, spokesperson and national hero of Braai Day.

It is in the spirit of his dedication to respect and understanding that we offer some helpful advice and information on living, working and loving in SA this Heritage Month!


Cultural practices and the legal requirements of the employer and employee.

Our cultures and traditions are important to us all, so when they conflict with one another, it’s often best to let each other get on with it. This can be difficult in a working environment where you can’t get the space you need, or it affects the employer/employee relationship. Under our Constitution, our cultural practices are protected, though fitting that into a business takes some finesse. You cannot be fired for genuine cultural practices, however the back and forth from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration (CCMA), to possibly the Supreme Court of Appeal can be long and expensive. To try and avoid these difficulties in the first place, be as open as you can be. Both sides need to be informed of the cultural expectations of the individuals and how the company works in these instances.

For more information on Heritage in the Workplace, we have a great video for you to watch.


Choosing to join your life to another in SA is more straightforward than many other countries.

You can marry pretty much any consenting adult you choose, and for a small fee, you can be legally married in court. Done.

However, being the diverse country that we are, that will not fly with everyone. Especially if there are doting parents and aunties who are expecting big traditional celebrations. Our Customary Marriages Act protects many of our culturally specific marriages, most recently another aspect of Islamic Marriages. The Act is beautifully inclusive and defers to the judgment of the cultural leader concerned, for whether the ceremonies were carried out “according to customary law”. It does not limit it to any specific custom, it simply requires the confirmation from your traditional leader and any proof you might have, such as pictures or Lobola letters. A customary marriage, whether you have an Antenuptial Contract or not, can then be registered at Home Affairs like any other marriage.

Even if you choose not to get married or go for a civil union, you can cohabit and join your lives that way. While it is NOT a common law marriage, it is an agreement between two adults (not necessarily in a romantic relationship) of any gender that they will share the responsibilities outlined in their specific relationships.


Cultural practices in the home and how we manage not to alienate our neighbours.

Our homes are precious to us, and we try very hard to ensure that they are safe, pleasant places to be.

Of course, we all have different ideas on what those words mean, which is my why we have municipal bylaws to ensure fair adherence to neighbourly behaviour. They differ slightly by area, but these are the rules we live by to ensure that we can all get along in the same neighbourhood.

Your local municipality should have them available on their website for ease of access so each of us can check that we are not the source of others’ frustration with our loud music on a weeknight, after 21h00, (most residential areas) allowing neighbours or street traffic line of sight to an animal being slaughtered, (residential and agricultural) and construction on weekends (most of SA).

Of course, if you happen to be a tenant on the same property, you might have to abide by whatever you agreed to in your lease agreement. The landlord-tenant relationship can be difficult, but each party has rights that are protected. Even as a tenant, you will not be expected to share a property with a landlord who consistently infringes bylaws, but as in all things, respect and consideration can save you a lot of pain later.

This is the most important piece of advice we can offer you. Rest assured, our Constitution has your back, and we are here to help you uphold that whenever you need us, but follow the example of Archbishop Desmond Tutu first.

Respect, understanding and kindness will solve problems before they start, and you won’t need to invite us to your braai!

With Legal&Tax, you’re not alone

Article sourced from Legal&Tax.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Michael Visser

Michael Visser is a legal advisor at Legal&Tax. He has a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) Law and LLB from The University of Pretoria. Read more about Michael Visser


Constitutional Law & Civil Rights articles by

Constitutional Law & Civil Rights articles on GoLegal