African Languages Used Insufficiently, Says Mbeki

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Apr 9 12:41:03 UTC 2005

African Languages Used Insufficiently, Says Mbeki

BuaNews (Pretoria)
April 8, 2005

By Nombini Matomela
Cape Town

President Thabo Mbeki has expressed concern at the insufficient use of
African languages in public-private institutions and recommended an
examination of the factors behind this. President Mbeki was speaking
yesterday to the National House of Traditional Leaders at Cape Town's
Civic Centre.

"What we may want to focus on is the fact that our languages are not used
as they should be by our people. "As we know, there is insufficient use of
African languages in schools, at national and provincial parliaments,
municipalities and other public and private institutions," he said.
President Mbeki was also concerned that at school level, few children were
taking African languages as subjects.

He said language was critical to sustaining a national identity as it
communicated the traditions, customs, morals and values of a people. "I am
raising this matter here because among other challenges, this is one of
the pressing issues that our traditional leaders should be concerned
with," said President Mbeki. Quoting from the Pan South African Language
Board report, he said: "People who speak Afrikaans tend to be more
concerned about the implications of language policy on their language."

He said there were indications that African people in urban areas did not
organise festivals that celebrated their culture. As a result, many young
people had no idea of their traditions that were often communicated
through songs, using language that dealt with morals and values. "In many
instances, it is easy for our youth to identify with rock stars from
places they have never seen who deal with issues that are foreign to our
situations and experiences.

"Invariably, this process inculcates an alien culture in many of our
people," President Mbeki said. He said traditional leaders, in partnership
with communities and government, should therefore ensure that festivals
celebrating traditions, songs and dances became a regular feature of life
in all corners of this country. This includes the major cities such as
Cape Town, Johannesburg, eThekwini, Tshwane and Port Elizabeth.

President Mbeki said traditional leaders should also participate in local
initiatives aimed at monitoring, reviewing or evaluating government
programmes, particularly in rural areas, in order to assist government to
accelerate the process of development. He also challenged the House to
look at the existing programmes for moral regeneration and whether they
were making an impact on society.

"In this context, we appreciate the work that you are doing among all our
people in the rural areas, relating to the question of social cohesion and
other matters such as the struggle against communicable diseases including
Aids," he said. He said among the challenges facing government was the
accessibility of social grants, as well as dealing with fraud committed by
people who were not entitled to receive these grants.

He said government would strengthen its collaboration with traditional
leaders so that those people entitled to these grants, accessed them
without any hindrance and those stealing faced the law. President also
expressed concern at unsafe initiation practices, that have claimed the
lives of many young men in the country..

"Among other things, we need your leadership as the custodians of our
cultures to ensure that we have safe, accountable and community-based
initiation schools," said President Mbeki. Distributed by
AllAfrica Global Media (

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