Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Johannesburg - Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has hit back at a member of the provincial legislature (MPL) who claimed the MEC was prejudiced against the Afrikaans language.

A complaint was lodged by Freedom Front Plus MPL Phillippus van Staden, who argued the MEC had, because of a bias against Afrikaans, incited racial tension among groups and breached constitutional and legislative processes.

Earlier this year the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) was embroiled in a court battle against Hoërskool Overvaal over the institution’s refusal to take on 55 non-Afrikaans speaking pupils.

The Vereeniging school was ultimately victorious after arguing it had reached its pupil capacity and couldn’t afford to hire English teachers to accommodate the new learners’ needs.

While the department indicated it wished to appeal the decision, this was also denied, eventually by the Constitutional Court.

In a lengthy complaint submitted to the legislature’s integrity commissioner, Van Staden claimed that Lesufi was on a crusade against the language, which the MEC has vehemently denied.

A statement released on Friday afternoon by his spokesperson, Steve Mabona, read: “It must be noted that MEC Lesufi saw it necessary to respond to the allegations made by Mr van Staden, particularly in view of the fact that such allegations are baseless and founded on paranoia and the manipulation of information to achieve an electoral advantage for the FFP and the response has been filed with the integrity commissioner in terms of which the MEC denies in the strongest terms the allegation that he is in any way prejudiced against the Afrikaans language, against Afrikaners, or against any other minority, in any form.

“On the contrary, the MEC’s actions on numerous occasions over the years confirm his commitment to the constitution of South Africa and the rights of all citizens enshrined in that constitution,” the statement read.

Lesufi argued that Van Staden had failed to provide any evidence of his claims.

“Our bone of contention is that, where situations occur in areas where the racial demographics are changing in terms of residency and/or employment, it is completely logical and the obligation of the department to supply education to those learners as close as possible to their place of residence and/or their parents’ or guardians’ place of employment,” the statement continued.

The MEC said certain areas that were once predominantly white were becoming home to more diverse citizens, which entitles them to apply to schools in those areas.

“In such instances, and as discussed above, when there are enough applications from learners who wish to be taught in English, schools may not refuse to accommodate learners on the basis that they are only prepared to teach in Afrikaans,” the statement read.

“I am simply not able to allow underutilised schools that teach in a single medium of instruction not to open their doors to learners who require an education.

“In relation to the allegation that there is a campaign being waged against the language policies of Afrikaans schools, I can confirm that in the past two months I have approved the language policies of approximately 98% of the Afrikaans schools that applied for the approval of their language policies.

“These policies would never have been approved if the Afrikaans language policies of Afrikaans schools were under attack,” said Lesufi.

Saturday Star