[lg policy] South Africa: ‘Honour language policy'

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 19 13:20:27 UTC 2010

‘Honour language policy


JOHANNESBURG - Government has been given two years to honour its
constitutional duty to regulate and monitor the use of all 11 official
languages in the country.

Judge Ben du Plessis yesterday granted an order to Brits attorney
Cerneels Lourens, declaring that the national government had failed to
govern and monitor its use of the official languages in terms of the

He said it was “unacceptable” that nothing had been done in 14 years
to comply with this founding principal of the Constitution.

The Minister of Arts and Culture was given two years to fulfil this
constitutional obligation and was also ordered to pay the costs of the

The judge, however, did not stipulate how government should go about
complying with the court order.

Lourens initially sought a court order to force government to finalise
and promulgate a national language policy; perform a language audit of
all national government departments and to publish national
legislation in all 11 official languages.

He maintained government was following a policy of Anglicisation by
using En- glish as a “super official language” resulting in the other
10 official languages having to be “satisfied with crumbs”.

Lourens yesterday welcomed the ruling, but said it was a disgrace
government did not comply with the Constitution. He said if any
government in Europe had been given such a legal hiding, it would have
had to resign.

Trade Union Solidarity described the ruling as “the biggest victory
since 1994” and Alana Bailey of AfriForum said the judgment had a
direct impact on their battle with the SA Revenue Service and could
result in other court applications.

Judge du Plessis, who gave his judgment in Afrikaans, said unless the
11 official languages were dismissed as “fiction” it meant that organs
of state in the national sphere could be addressed in any of the 11
languages, within reasonable bounds. He said a judgment in English
would be “insensitive” towards Lourens in the light of the rights he
was trying to protect.

Judge du Plessis said although the national government had initially
been rather eager to comply with its obligations, the process came to
a standstill in 2007 and there was presently no co-ordinated language


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