[lg policy] South Africa: 'My Life Is At Risk, but I Am Not Scared' - Panyaza Lesufi On Threats

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Jan 18 11:06:18 EST 2018

South Africa: 'My Life Is At Risk, but I Am Not Scared' - Panyaza Lesufi On

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Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said he feels that his life is in
danger after he and his family received threats, he revealed at a briefing
in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The threats follow his decision to change the language policy at certain
schools from Afrikaans only to dual language.

Lesufi also said the department was planning on appealing a decision which
Judge Bill Prinsloo had made in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria -
which may have heightened threats.

The court set aside a Gauteng Department of Education's decision to admit
55 pupils, who were to be taught in English, to Hoërskool Overvaal - an
Afrikaans medium school.

The school argued that it did not have the capacity for the additional
pupils and Judge Prinsloo found in its favour.

During Tuesday's press conference, Lesufi said: "You are scratching my car,
you are [puncturing] my car, everything, where I go, I am monitored. Should
I be scared? Surely not.

"Yes, my life is at risk, but I am not scared. I don't need any additional
protection. I joined this struggle knowingly," he said in response to a man
in the audience.

The man, who identified himself as journalist from Pro-Afrikaans Action
Group (Praag), took issue with the fact that his question was not answered,
while another journalist's question about language at schools was answered
during a question and answer session.

An exasperated Lesufi said he knew that journalists would come and said he
was not scared of them.

"I am not in a state where I believe I need to watch my back... there are
people who have called institutions asking when my children will be picked
up, I will not go to the police. If I have to pay with my life for
non-racialism, I will do that. I am not the first one," he said.

Lesufi added that the only thing that would stop him was the achievement of
a fully non-racial society where all children have access to equal

"They are asking the whereabouts of my children, and all these things. I am
not scared. This revolution was never won by those that are scared for
their own lives... I am quite convinced that they know themselves what they
are doing, and where I stand. I am more committed than ever before," Lesufi

'No language is under threat'

He responded to the man again on a question about whether he hates
Afrikaans-speaking people and the Afrikaans language.

"There is no language that is under threat or going to be undermined. All
languages are equal. I hate racism with a passion, I hate it. But I'm truly
addicted to non-racialism... you can't use excuses to try to perpetuate
racism. Gauteng is not a playing ground for racism," he said to the man,
who said that his forefather had built Johannesburg.

He said all languages must be protected and given a space to prosper,
adding that he was against schools that use language as an excuse to
continue racism.

"I have faith that they will change the language policies at some of these
schools. Come 2019, Hoërskool Overvaal will have an English class there, if
there is space available,"said Lesufi.

The MEC explained that appealing the decision in the Hoërskool Overvaal
matter did not amount to a disregard for the power of the judiciary.

"We are not questioning the judiciary, we are merely appealing the
decision, which is something we have a right to do. If there is a conduct
that is not appropriate, we must express that particular view," Lesufi
said, adding that in his view the judgment was not a fair one.

Lesufi is planning to meet with the 55 unplaced pupils, who hoped to attend
the school on Tuesday afternoon.


 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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