[lg policy] South Africa: minorities were lied to in 1994

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Jan 1 10:37:41 EST 2018

 *Cape Town – The Constitutional Court ruling on Friday morning, declaring
that the University of the Free State's (UFS) English-only language policy
lawful, proves minorities were misled in the 1994 negotiations, minority
rights group AfriForum said. *

In a majority ruling, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng denied AfriForum's
application for leave to appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling from
March. The SCA overruled an earlier High Court order which said the
University's policy decision was unlawful.

In a statement, AfriForum's deputy CEO, Alana Bailey, said minorities, such
as Afrikaans speakers, were misled in 1994 to believe that their language
rights would be protected.

Afrikaans is South Africa's third most common language, with an estimated
seven million speakers.

Bailey expressed fear that the ruling will heighten racial tension on South
African campuses.

"The South African past (consider for example the events in Soweto in
1976), but also many other countries such as Bangladesh and Belgium, prove
that denying students the right to study in their mother language might
lead to increased tensions and even violence," Bailey said.

"With English monolingualism, only a tiny group of English-speaking
students will be privileged, while the rest will have very little hope left
that any indigenous language will develop further in future."

The FF Plus, which advocates for Afrikaners to have the right to
self-determination or self-management, said the Constitutional Court ruling
is a "tremendous setback for mother-tongue instruction".

"In a country with eleven official languages, the mediums of instruction
must rather be expanded to include more languages instead of languages
being taken away and institutions becoming anglicised," FF Plus chairperson
Anton Alberts said in a statement.

*Others welcome **judgment*

While AfriForum and FF Plus expressed disappointment in the ruling, the
South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) and the Higher Education
Transformation Network (HETN) welcomed the judgment.

In a statement, SANCO spokesperson Jabu Mahlangu said AfriForum opposed to
the new language policy because, except for the "preservation and
domination of the Afrikaans language, it has no interest whatsoever in
peaceful solutions to any challenge facing South Africa".

"[AfriForum] is a reactionary formation that is part of the right-wing
movement that thrives on heightened racial tensions to appeal to those who
wish to plunge the country towards a slippery slope as well as a vicious
cycle of conflict, racial hatred and violence,” Mahlangu explained.

On their part, HETN said the ruling should be considered the "official
flattening of AfriForum’s racist campaign to retain Afrikaans as the sole
medium of instruction in formerly Afrikaans–only public higher educational

"Whilst it may not be possible for the government to provide for indigenous
language education for all, English should remain the international
standard medium of instruction to ensure that all students from all South
African communities are able to access higher education equally," HETN
Executive Director Mothepane Seolonyane added.

The language of instruction at formerly Afrikaans universities such as the
University of the Free State (UFS), Stellenbosch University (SU) and the
University of Pretoria (UP) have come under fire in recent years.

UFS and UP have opted for English-only instruction as a means to assist in
its transformation, while SU gave Afrikaans and English equal status as
languages of instruction.

SU's policy, however, adopts a preference for English in certain
circumstances in order to advance the university’s goals of equal access,
multilingualism and integration.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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