Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said he has received a letter from Solidarity requesting a meeting to discuss matters relating to the planned Sol-Tech College. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Monday he has received a letter from civil society group Solidarity requesting a meeting to discuss matters relating to the planned Sol-Tech College.

"I am looking forward to meeting and engaging with them and any other institution on matters relating to higher education and training," Nzimande said.

He revealed this in a written response to a Parliamentary question from Freedom Front Plus MP Wynand Johannes Boshoff.

Boshoff had asked if Nzimande had received an invitation from the Solidarity Movement to discuss their activities in the sphere of higher education and vocational training, and whether he was prepared to meet them on the matter.

The reports on the planned Afrikaans tertiary institution caused a stir in some quarters with some viewing it as racism in disguise and a move to exclude people on the basis of race.

Asked if he has found that the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction was a transgression of the Bill of Rights, Nzimande said he welcomed the explanation and clarity provided by Solidarity in their letter that Sol-Tech as a private college was fully committed to the constitution and all legislative frameworks pertaining to education and training in the country, and as such, rejects all forms of discrimination based on race.

"My ministry will engage with them further as we have an obligation to make sure that no South African is denied access to any educational institution in the country based on race, language or culture.”

Nzimande also said his department acknowledged and upheld Afrikaans as one of the 11 official languages, which was duly protected by the constitution.

"However, any form of discrimination or exclusionary practice based on language will not be tolerated as it goes against the spirit of the Constitution and the imperatives of social cohesion and nation building.

"The department’s position is very clear and consistent over the years that in post-apartheid South Africa we will no longer have exclusive Afrikaans, Zulu or Xhosa institutions, but rather institutions, which are open to all South Africans that upholds the values of our Constitution," he said.

In another written response earlier this month, Nzimande said all South African universities were currently public higher education institutions.

"Public higher education institutions must be accessible to a wide range of diverse students," he said when he was asked if it was government’s policy to permit one university campus to be predominantly Afrikaans speaking.

"Within the South African context universities have developed language policies, in line with the policy on languages in higher education, and have moved away from Afrikaans only language institutions/ campuses toward utilising English as the main language of instruction, and at the same time fostering multilingual environments that include a range of other languages, in terms of, for example, campus signage, social usage and formal usage at university arranged events."

Nzimande had said such a move has been tested in the Constitutional Court and has been found to be in line with the constitution.

"Government supports these language policy movements, however it does not set the policy at the institutional level."

He also said an institution could implement a language policy that allowed for dual mediums of instruction in terms of the policy.

"However, they may not implement policy that results in language being a barrier to access and success for students.

"Private higher education institutions must also uphold the constitution and implement language policies that do not act as barriers to access and success."

Political Bureau