Sign language interpreter, Beryl Peterson at the Imagine Awards. Photo: Zukiswa Minyi/ African News Agency (ANA)
Sign language interpreter, Beryl Peterson at the Imagine Awards. Photo: Zukiswa Minyi/ African News Agency (ANA)

Sign language well on its way as 12th official language - Mthethwa

By Siyabonga Mkhwanazi Time of article published May 29, 2021

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Cape Town - Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa has announced thathe was planning to implement the decision to have sign language added as the 12th official language in South Africa.

This comes after the DA posed a question to him in a written question in Parliament.

Mthethwa said there was already work in place to have sign language as the 12th language.

In terms of the Constitution South Africa has 11 official languages.

DA MP Sibongiseni Ngcobo wanted to know if there were plans to have sign language as the official language.

“Yes, after the Constitutional Review Committee of Parliament had recommended that section 6(1) and (5)(a) of the Constitution be amended to include South African Sign Language (SASL) as the 12th South African official language, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services took the necessary steps to kick-start the Constitutional amendment process.

“The first working session for all national departments to make contributions to the draft 19th Constitutional Amendment Bill was held in March 2021,” said Mthethwa.

He said the department of arts and culture and the Pan South African Language Board (Pansalb) were working with the department of justice in ensuring that this constitutional amendment was effected.

“The department of sport, arts and culture and Pansalb as the key implementers of Section 6 of the Constitution were working closely with the department of justice.

“A follow-up working session was facilitated by the department of arts and culture in April 2021 where all affected stakeholders, mainly the deaf community gave input into the draft Bill.

“The department of arts and culture is also planning to conduct further consultative meetings with all relevant structures of the Deaf Community as users of the South African Sign Language (SASL) to understand their specific needs that will inform the draft implementation plan to give effect to section 6 of the Constitution when it is amended. In the meantime, Pansalb 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. There is no budget yet allocated for the SASL as the constitutional amendment process is still ongoing.

“When SASL is finally adopted as the 12th official language of the Republic of South Africa, the department of arts and culture will include it in its plans with cost implications,” said Mthethwa.

Political Bureau

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