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Process to make sign language SA’s 12th official language begins

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa File picture: GCIS

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa File picture: GCIS

Published May 24, 2021

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The long-awaited process to amend the Constitution so that the 12th official language can be included has finally got under way.

This was revealed by Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa during his response to parliamentary questions by IFP MP Siphosethu Ngcobo.

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Ngcobo asked about plans to include sign language as one of the official South African languages as well as the details of the plan and budget to realise the parliamentary decision.

In response, Mthethwa said the constitutional review committee had recommended that a section of the Constitution be amended to include South African Sign Language (SASL) as the 12th official South African language.

He said the Department of Justice and Correctional Services had already taken the necessary steps to kick-start the constitutional amendment process.

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Mthethwa maintained that the first working session for all national departments to make contributions to the draft 19th Constitutional Amendment Bill was held in March this year.

He also said a follow-up working session was facilitated by his department in April when all affected stakeholders, mainly the deaf community, gave input.

According to Mthethwa, the department plans to conduct further consultative meetings with all relevant structures of the deaf community as users of the South African Sign Language to understand their specific needs, which will inform the draft implementation plan to give effect to Section 6 of the Constitution when it is amended.

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“In the meantime, the Pan South African Language Board is workshopping stakeholders on the SASL Charter, which sets out key obligations to improve access to quality services and effective protection of the linguistic rights of deaf people,” he said.

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