There is no ban on Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University, says Prof Wim de Villiers

Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University rector and vice-chancellor refutes allegations that the university has banned Afrikaans. Picture Cindy Waxa.

Published May 11, 2021


“SUGGESTIONS that students across campus, as a matter of university policy, have at any time been prohibited from communicating in Afrikaans is false.”

This is a statement made by Stellenbosch University (SU) rector and vice-chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers when addressing the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Stellenbosch. The meeting was for the SAHRC to investigate allegations of a prohibition on the use of Afrikaans at SU.

“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.

“To the contrary, our language policy advances multilingualism, taking into account the diversity of our society and the intellectual wealth inherent in that diversity,” said De Villiers.

The hearing comes hot on the heels of protest actions by conservatives who believe that the university was banning Afrikaans. This is after the university announced that it was in the process of reviewing its language policy, as it is mandatory to do so after every five-year cycle.

The current policy was implemented in 2017.

SU said the revision process was initiated in October last year by convening a task team, and proposed a timeline based on the university almanac for 2021. The objective was to table a final draft language policy (2021) for approval by council on December 2 this year. The new language policy includes English, IsiXhosa and Afrikaans as the official university languages.

“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.”

“Stellenbosch is an inclusive, multilingual university, one of very few higher education institutions in our multilingual country following this approach. This is not easy; in fact, it is complicated and expensive. Yet we have deliberately chosen to go this route because we believe it is the right thing to do,” De Villiers said.

SAHRC Chairperson Chris Nissen thanked De Villiers for the informative engagement.

“We found this engagement with the management of the university useful. 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,” said Nissan.

He said the SAHRC would be meeting with university stakeholders before making its recommendations.