Blade Nzimande discriminating by failing to categorise Afrikaans as indigenous, says John Steenhuisen
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Pretoria - The Minister for Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande has been labelled discriminatory for portraying Afrikaans as an important language and failing to categorise it as one of the recognised indigenous languages.
DA leader John Steenhuisen made the remarks leading a protest and petition handover at Nzimande's offices in Pretoria. He was joined by the party's shadow minister of public service and administration Leon Schreiber and Tshwane Executive Mayor Randall Williams.
He said the people were frustrated because Nzimande was trying to portray Afrikaans as an important language for political reasons despite the fact that it was recognised in the South African constitution as an indigenous language.
"His view is that Afrikaans is the language of the oppressor and a language of white people. However, a majority of the people who speak Afrikaans in this country are black South Africans.
"If you travel to the Northern Cape, the Western Cape and large parts throughout the rest of the country, black people speak Afrikaans. It is their mother tongue. It is their choice of language and their language of instruction. If you try to speak English in public meetings the people stop you. They will not let you speak.
"That was part of the reason why we are here to fight for Afrikaans' right to be recognised as an indigenous language as the constitution says. We also want to stop Minister Nzimande's assault on Afrikaans"
With the constitutional court having recently ordered Unisa to reinstate Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, Steenhuisen said Nzimande and his department did not understand that South Africans had an obligation to use and preserve their languages before English wiped them out.
"We should have IsiZulu Universities, IsiXhosa universities, Sepedi universities and TshiVhenda universities where young people who were brought up in that tradition and culture are not disadvantaged when they go to university because they have to learn in English.
"It is really unfair for an IsiZulu speaking person who was raised in that language and taught in IsiZulu all their lives to grow up and go to university and be forced to learn in English. It is not fair and we are disadvantaging people. We should be expanding mother tongue education, not reducing it," he added.
Schreiber said they started an online petition to oppose the minister's stance on Afrikaans and they received over 5 700 signatures and counting, as people mobilise to make Nzimande aware that Afrikaans was not spoken anywhere else in the world.
"We are here to demand that he correct the classification of Afrikaans in the policy framework for higher education, wherein he classified Afrikaans as a foreign language in South Africa.
"That was unscientific and in direct contradiction to the constitutional court's ruling in the Unisa case where the court made it clear that Afrikaans is an equal indigenous language.
"The minister has tried in the past to dismiss their concerns which led us to lay a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission," he said.
The DA wants Nzimande to write to all higher education institutions and instruct them to recognise Afrikaans as an indigenous language and then apologise to all the Afrikaans speaking people.
The minister's spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said Nzimande dismissed with contempt the DA idea that he hates Afrikaans.
He said Nzimande made it clear that the DA was recycling its old and tired strategy that was defeated in 1996, that of seeking to privilege Afrikaans as an instrument to exclude the majority of South Africans in accessing education, especially in former white education institutions.
He said Nzimande recognises Afrikaans as one of South Africa’s 11 official languages but he could not allow Afrikaans to be used as a means of exclusion and oppression, nor as a means to pursue a narrow and racist Afrikaner nationalist agenda, as was the case under apartheid.
Reacting to the complaint raised at the human rights commission, Nzimande said: “Afrikaans should and must be located in a democratic South Africa and be rescued from a white right-wing agenda. This should not be viewed as being in conflict with promoting mother tongue instruction in a democratic South Africa."