When Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko was named the new education MEC in Gauteng, everyone was excited and expected that she would be positive towards all languages.
I was thrilled with the announcement of Nkomo-Ralehoko’s appointment in the education portfolio and hoped it would be a step in the right direction - that she would recognise the value of mother-tongue education and promote it.
However, the euphoria was short-lived.
The very next day, Panyaza Lesufi was back in his post.
According to Gauteng premier David Makhura and Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, Lesufi has done a great job and should be back in his job as Gauteng’s MEC for education, despite his controversial statement two weeks ago: “Why still fight for Afrikaans?”
As I have indicated many times before, the generalisation that Afrikaans belongs to a certain “race”, and the ongoing labelling of Afrikaans as the “language of apartheid” must be stopped.
According to the Statistics South Africa’s General Household Survey report of 2018, the home language of more than three-quarters (77.4%) of coloured people is Afrikaans, while only 20.1% have English as home language.
More than three-fifths (61.2%) of white South Africans speak Afrikaans at home, and only 36.3% speak English as their home language.
These individuals cannot be denied the right to receive mother-tongue education, and for that reason we will continue to fight for Afrikaans and all the other indigenous languages.
One’s potential is best unlocked through mother-tongue education. However, even though we are a developing nation, thousands of citizens are denied their right to mother tongue education - the very key to their development.
This contradiction will cost government in the long-run, for such short-sightedness ensures that the gap between the elite, who prefers English, and the masses living in their mother tongue, will only widen the gap between the rich and poor.
The previously disadvantaged are again being disadvantaged and marginalised. People must be made aware of the numerous possibilities Afrikaans and other indigenous languages hold.
The ANC makes a great fuss about decolonisation, but forces the colonial English language on everyone. This certainly does not help the masses living in desperate circumstances.
I appeal to Panyaza Lesufi to change his stance on Afrikaans. He should rather focus on the human potential that can be unlocked through Afrikaans and the other marginalised indigenous languages, to further the educational and economic interests of our country.
I appeal to the Afrikaans community and all other language communities to engage with Minister Lesufi; we cannot allow the educational, economic, social, cultural and spiritual value of the indigenous languages to be undermined by personal political agendas.
Merlyn van der Rheede via email
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