The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has convened an inquiry into allegations of a prohibition on the use of Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University (SU). Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has convened an inquiry into allegations of a prohibition on the use of Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University (SU). Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

SA Human Rights Commission probes Stellenbosch University’s language policy

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published May 12, 2021

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Cape town - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has convened an inquiry into allegations of a prohibition on the use of Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University (SU).

The hearing, which was held on Monday by Commissioner Chris Nissen and SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers, was part of the commissioner’s ongoing inquiry into the allegations and complaints.

During the engagement, De Villiers stated that the suggestion that students across campus, as a matter of university policy, have at any time been prohibited from communicating in Afrikaans was false.

"There is no ban on Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University – not in lecture halls, in residences, or anywhere else on campus. That is not our policy," said De Villiers.

DA constituency head at Stellenbosch, Leon Schreiber, said the SAHRC's investigation followed after they lodged complaints about numerous allegations that students in residences, on campus and even on WhatsApp were forbidden to communicate in Afrikaans, and were threatened with fines if they spoke Afrikaans.

De Villiers said to the contrary, their language policy advances multilingualism, taking into account the diversity of their society and the intellectual wealth inherent in that diversity.

“There is no English-only policy in residences. And students should not be prohibited from speaking Afrikaans or any other language. The university cannot condone that, as it would be incongruous with our vision, our values as well as our language policy.”

Nissen said the interaction was informative. “We will await the additional information that we requested during this meeting. And we also respect the fact that the independent investigation that the university commissioned is not complete yet, we will also await that report."

Nissen said there would be further engagements from their side with other stakeholders and interested parties, and they would make their assessment as a commission.

Schreiber said that De Villiers refused to provide the SAHRC with answers to allegations that he had already told a SU councillor in 2015 that the university should only be fully anglicised, because it would be the "easiest option".

"His silence on this question speaks volumes, and serves as an indirect confirmation that De Villiers is on an ideological war to abolish Afrikaans education altogether," Schreiber said.

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