Opinion / 22 September 2019, 7:42pm / Panyaza Lesufi
Johannesburg - Is there room for a language-based university? Should a language be used to perpetuate racist agendas? Just when a university is supposed to be a leveller in our society, an institution that closes the gap between the rich and the poor, should we unearth another form of racism by allowing an Afrikaans-only university?
The answer is: no way. I and many South Africans are not opposed to Afrikaans, the Afrikaner culture and its trappings. But we will never support those who want to hijack this language, just like they did during the dark days of apartheid, to conceal their hatred of a democratic South Africa.
To make matters worse, those involved in building this Afrikaans- only university have a horrible history of anti-transformation. They defend the apartheid flag, support the music of Steve Hofmeyr, despise affirmative action and only represent Afrikaans speakers in labour disputes and challenge any promotion of blacks in labour matters.
The post-apartheid education policy is based on the Constitution, and among its objectives is the redressing of past imbalances and the addressing of education based on race.
The democratic government’s most dramatic strides towards equalising institutions of learning by dismantling 15 distinct departments of education and creating a single non-racially based one came in the early heady days of democracy.
Our goal was straightforward and attainable.
We wanted to excise the most blatant excesses of apartheid education by officially doing away with racially divided institutions of learning and a white-supremacist curriculum.
Over 25 years into our democratic dispensation, any school district, university or tertiary institution that wishes to short-change students is anathema to our society and a disgrace to the Constitution of the republic.
It is a pity that even under a democratic state, we are still being insulted and the overwhelming majority of our people, still live in squalor, not out of their own making but because of the historic injustices of apartheid education. It is those living in informal settlements and rural areas without skills that need this university. But they will be excluded because they do not speak Afrikaans.
I am sustained by my conviction that non-racialism is not wrong and that we are better off together than being a divided nation.
So the insults that I am a racist will not stick. I fought for non-racialism even when racism was unleashed with brutality, and revenge would have been a better and easier option.
I have since taken Afrikaans lessons to demonstrate that I am not against the language. My daughter also went to an Afrikaans school that accommodated other languages. So the shallow calls that I hate Afrikaans are baseless and meaningless.
To forgive apartheid beneficiaries for their sins should not be equated to stupidity but with that we sacrificed our happiness so that our country, not a language, should prosper.
I fully support multilingualism where all languages are protected and developed, not only the language of the haves and the rich, while the have-nots and the poor can only be taken care of by the state.
The opening of this language-based university, especially a language that was used to oppress us, is not good for the future of our country.
Imagine if we were to render services on the basis of who speaks which language rather than who is a South African. God help us all.
* Lesufi is Gauteng Education MEC.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.