[lg policy] South Africa: Language policy: more time for state
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Fri Mar 16 15:21:20 UTC 2012
Language policy: more time for state
March 15 2012 at 10:12am
By ZELDA VENTER
The government was given a lifeline by the Pretoria High Court on
Wednesday to finalise and promulgate a national language policy that
would be in the interests of all its citizens. The court found in
March 2010 that the national government had neglected its duty to
regulate and monitor the use of official languages by means of
legislative and other measures in terms of the constitution.
The court gave the minister of arts and culture of the time, in his
capacity as the responsible cabinet minister, two years to finalise
and promulgate a national language policy. The deadline was set to
lapse on Thursday. But it was stated in papers before court that
today’s Arts and Culture Minister, Paul Mashatile, and his department
had worked non-stop to try to finalise the language Bill, but that
more time was needed.
The minister launched an urgent application on Wednesday in which he
asked that the deadline be extended by a year.
Brits attorney Cerneels Lourens, who initiated the application to
force the government to honour its constitutional duty towards SA’s
official languages, reached an agreement with the government on
Wednesday in terms of which the deadline was extended to September 15.
This agreement was made an order of court by Judge Brian Southwood.
Lourens told the Pretoria News that the agreement that the time frame
be extended for six months was sensible in the circumstances as all
the relevant parties could now work together towards a uniform
However, he warned that if the government had not finalised its
language policy by September 15 this year, he would be back in court
to hold the minister in contempt.
Sibusiso Xaba, arts and culture director-general, said in papers
before court that the use and regulation of language was a sensitive
and complex issue.
“The legislation and issues arising from regulating and monitoring
language use have attracted significant interest, debate and concern.
It resulted in a consultative process and deliberations which have
taken longer than was initially anticipated by the minister.”
He said Mashatile regarded this issue as so important that it had
enjoyed his personal attention.
After a lengthy process, the bill was tabled in the National Assembly
in November last year and later introduced to the portfolio committee.
Deliberations are continuing.
Xaba said the minister and the department were always aware of the
urgency to finalise legislation in this regard and the legislative
process to promulgate this bill had progressed to the point where it
had almost reached culmination.
Xaba said it wasn’t possible to give a precise estimate of when the
bill would be enacted.
The aim of the bill is to regulate and monitor the use of official
languages by the national government for government purposes. It will
require the adoption of language policies by national departments and
other public entities.
Lourens wants Parliament to publish all legislation in the 11 official
languages. As things now stood, legislation was published in English,
with which he did not have a problem, plus one other language on a
rotation basis. He said acts of Parliament should be written in each
official language as the constitution clearly stated there should be
no discrimination. - Pretoria News
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