South Africa: FW de Klerk says Afrikaans under threat

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Jan 31 13:59:22 UTC 2007

Afrikaans under threat, says FW de Klerk

Cape Town, South Africa

27 January 2007 07:39

Former South African president FW de Klerk said on Friday that Afrikaans,
the mother tongue of his white minority group, is under threat after
regional police accused authorities of banning the language. A group of
Afrikaans-speaking police officers complained to De Klerk's Centre for
Constitutional Rights that officials in the Western Cape had declared
English the only means of communication. De Klerk was South Africa's last
white president and won a Nobel Peace prize for his role in fostering
racial unity and securing its smooth transition from apartheid to the
first all-race poll in 1994.

He has often been at loggerheads with the black-led government and has
accused the ruling African National Congress of marginalising whites with
policies meant to empower blacks. He suggested Afrikaans was another such
issue. "Language rights are not a right-wing issue. They are important to
South Africans from across the political spectrum ... [and] we shall
resist political pressure from any quarter," he said in an e-mailed
response to questions from Reuters. Western Cape police have said their
aim was to improve communication between the province's different language
groups by encouraging the use of English.

But de Klerk said the issue went deeper, although he backed off earlier
threats by his group to challenge the language ruling in court. "Clearly,
the status of Afrikaans as a language of government in the Western Cape
SAPS [South African Police Service] is at threat, in contravention of
section 6 of the Constitution," De Klerk said in an e-mail from Taipei,
where he was attending a conference. "Afrikaans is also under threat in
other areas of public life, including certain aspects of education."
Afrikaans -- a modern version of the Dutch spoken by settlers that arrived
in South Africa from the 17th century -- was the dominant language under
decades of white minority rule. But in post-apartheid South Africa it is
only one of 11 official languages, and critics say it is threatened by the
scrapping of Afrikaans-only universities. -- Reuters


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