The concerns were sparked by a tweet from Finance Minister Tito Mboweni reading: “I publicly and in my personal capacity disagree with the phasing out of Afrikaans as one of the mediums of teaching at the University of Pretoria,” he said.
He further cautioned: “As a country, you are shooting yourselves down. You will regret it in 30 years’ time.”
AfriForum joined the debate and supported Mboweni, adding that removing Afrikaans undermined social cohesion; created conflict and contributed to student non-performance.
AfriForum chief executive Alana Bailey said: “Neither AfriForum nor AfriForum Youth had ever asked that Afrikaans be the only language of instruction at UP; on the contrary, we suggested a choice of three, which included English.”
Education for Social Justice Foundation deputy chairperson Hendrick Makaneta said the decision marked the end of an era of misery for black students. “We hope the developments at UP send a clear message that there is no more hiding place for backward racist people who want to use language to exclude the vast majority of students.”
Social media responses to Mboweni’s comments were divided.
“This comrade is detached and reversing our gains. I was a student at Tukkies and I know how Afrikaans speaking students benefited from the language. How I wish economics was taught in Setswana @tito_mboweni,” tweeted @Segodimog.
@Heavans_nomi wrote: “@tito_mboweni your opinion is offensive to some of us that went to Tukkies and were affected negatively by the use of Afrikaans as one of the mediums of instruction.”
Those sharing Mboweni’s sentiments asked for universities to be built for those wishing to study in their native language. “Tukkies has always been an Afrikaans university; build your own university and offer classes in whatever language you want,” @J0hannR said. ANC spokesperson Dakota Legoete wrote: “The university has taken a step in the right direction.”