South Africa: Fanakalo to be officially phased out in mining operations

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Dec 5 16:37:08 UTC 2008

Fanakalo to be officially phased out in mining operations

Published on 5th December 2008

Platinum mining company Anglo Platinum (Angloplat) is actively taking
steps to rid itself of the unofficial pidgin language Fanakalo as a
means of communication at its operations. Research conducted by
Angloplat has shown that the artificially manufactured Fanakalo
language was found to have an adverse effect [on] the effectiveness of
communications. More importantly though, is how this affects safety
issues.  To resolve this situation, all employees, supervisors and
management will, over a period of three years, learn two languages,
namely English and the relevant dominant local language.

A strong perception held by Angloplat is that there is a correlation
between mine safety and effective communication, proved true in the
first half of 2007. As reported by mining operations, a significant
deterioration in safety performance occurred during the first half of
2007. This led to a halt in production, particularly at Angloplat
Rustenburg operations, to ensure that every employee fully understood
the principles and accountability underlying all safety standards,
initiatives and programmes.

Working in partnership with key stakeholders such as unions, training
specialist Media Works, Wits University and Wits Enterprise, the
comprehensive language strategy will be phased in over the next three
years.  "I am aware of numerous attempts to stamp out Fanakalo in the
past, by various mining houses," says Media Works MD Jackie Carroll.
"But this is the first time that such a comprehensive solution has
been sought and is being provided. After running two highly successful
pilots, and witnessing the support that we have received from all
quarters for this initiative, we know we have a solid working model
that will finally release mining from the shackles of Fanakalo."

As research conducted among some 6 000 employees revealed, most
employees agreed that a change in Angloplat's language policy would
improve understanding among employees and enhance work place safety.
The aim is to provide for an operational level of communication
proficiency, rather than to enable literacy and fluency. Forming part
of the mining group's comprehensive safety improvement plan, the
programme will be implemented at all Angloplat-managed mining
operations. The full roll out of the Oral Language Development
Programme will start in 2009.


Fanakalo, also known as Fanagalo, is the only Zulu-based pidgin
language, and is a rare example of a pidgin based on an indigenous
language rather than on the language of a colonising or trading power.
The name Fanakalo comes from strung-together Nguni forms meaning
"liken + it + that" and has the meaning "do it like this", reflecting
its use as a language of instruction.

Fanakalo is one of a number of African pidgin languages that developed
during the colonial period to promote ease of communication. It has
been suggested that it developed in the nineteenth century in
KwaZulu-Natal as a way for English colonists to communicate with their
servants and was also used as a go-between language between English
and Afrikaans-speaking colonists. Historically, Fanakalo was used
extensively in gold and diamond mines because the South African mining
industry employed workers from across southern and central Africa,
including Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.

With workers originating from a range of countries and having a vast
range of different mother tongues, Fanakalo provided a simple way to
communicate and is still used as a training and operating medium. In
the mid-20th century there were white efforts in South Africa to
promote and standardise Fanakalo as a universal second language, under
the name of Basic Bantu. It is in this sense that Fanakalo has
unfavourable and negative connotations for many South Africans,
furthering the cause for its abandonment.
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