Afrikaans is no more foreign than SA’s other official languages

By Opinion Time of article published Sep 30, 2021

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Vytjie Mentor

CAPE TOWN - On SEPTEMBER 22, the Constitutional Court ruled that the University of South Africa's (Unisa’s) Language Policy of 2016, which discontinued Afrikaans as a language of learning and teaching, was unconstitutional, unlawful and procedurally unlawful.

The ruling was the result of a 5-year battle through our court system to have the language recognised by the institution and allow students to exercise their Constitutional right to receive education in the official language of their choice in public institutions, where it is practically possible to do so.

Following the landmark ruling of the Concourt, the Language Policy Framework for Public Institutions (October 2020), which was meant to enhance the status of indigenous languages but was used to suppress the use of Afrikaans as a language of teaching and learning, is under scrutiny.

This week, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, is reported to have characterised Afrikaans as a foreign language in South Africa. His utterances are not only unconstitutional, but also in poor taste and disrespectful to millions of Afrikaans-speaking South Africans. Nzimande has demonstrated his ignorance and carelessness of not only himself, but of the ANC government.

It is rather shameful for someone that claims to hold a doctoral degree in education to be so blatantly ignorant and ahistorical.

Nzimande’s comments are most disappointing in their pitiful efforts to rewrite history and deny many Afrikaans-speaking South Africans their cultural heritage.

It is no secret that Afrikaans is not only spoken by white South Africans but by many people of colour in our country, who not only speak it, but who have put their own flavour to it and who love it.

The era of weaponising race, culture, and language to divide South Africans must come to an end, regardless of the nature or colour of the perpetrator.

Afrikaans is an official language recognised by our Constitution and is also part of our national anthem. How can it be foreign?

Afrikaans is a legitimate indigenous South African language. Afrikaans originated on southern African soil. It is the third most spoken language in South Africa after Zulu and Xhosa.

It is not only spoken by white people in South Africa but is also spoken by black and coloured people.

It is their language of prayer, of love, an expression of their culture, and of oral teaching.

Afrikaans was often used in chant songs and slogans during our struggle for liberation.

In many townships across our country, people speak “Tsotsi Taal”, a derivative of Afrikaans.

It is for these reasons that Dr Nzimande’s utterances must be seen for what they are, an insult, moreover during Heritage Month.

South Africans are gatvol with ministers and public officials alike who occupy positions for which they are unfit.

A national minister of education ought to know, respect and understand the importance of recognising all indigenous languages in forging cultural harmony and social cohesion.

I hereby implore Minister Nzimande to do a bit of research on Antjie Krog, for example, an Afrikaans scholar, poet and human rights activist who wrote at length about the injustices and atrocities that the apartheid regime unleashed on oppressed black people who were and still are the majority in this country.

The minister must, as we end Heritage Month, read Antjie Krog’s poem, "Die Kind". Perhaps thereafter he will learn to appreciate Afrikaans instead of flippantly dismissing it and practically minimising strides made by the founders of our new nation to build an inclusive post-apartheid society.

I hope that South Africans will stand with their fellow Afrikaans-speaking countrymen and women of all races to reject the minister’s statement and call on him to withdraw it and publicly apologise to all South Africans.

Should the minister fail to do so, President Cyril Ramaphosa must compel him and initiate a repeal of the racist policy framework he sought to impose on our students.

Uiteindelik, ons Suid Afrikaners “sal lewe, ons sal sterwe, vir ons Suid Afrika!”.

Mentor is ActionSA Western Cape Chairperson

Cape Times

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