Reject Afrikaans Myths – Concourt

CAPE TOWN – False myths about Afrikaans had to be rejected and its black history had to be remembered, the Constitutional Court found.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal by the University of South Africa (Unisa) with costs, which sought to exclude Afrikaans as a language of instruction in its new language policy.

She spoke out in favor of the Afriforum pressure group, which argued that it violated the right in article 29 (2) of the Constitution (which confers the right to choose the language of instruction in an institution of ‘public education) because there was no justification for adopting an English-only language of learning and schooling policy (LOLT) while no feasibility study has shown that it does not. was not possible to use the old dual language policy.

The new language policy aimed to “improve the status of indigenous African languages”, while phasing out Afrikaans and removing the guarantee that classes are offered in both Afrikaans and English.

In the judgment, Judge Steven Arnold Majiedt pointed to the black history of Afrikaans, which he said had been overlooked.

“Afrikaans has evolved primarily from Dutch, Malay, Portuguese, Khoi, and Afrikaans-Arabic. The colonizers forced the Khoisan people and the enslaved Eastern people to speak Dutch, thus manifesting the earliest roots of the Afrikaans language. Afrikaans linguists all agree that the Khoisan and the slaves played an important role in the origins and development of Afrikaans – they differ only in whether their roles were essential or less important.

“The role of Afrikaans in our institutions and civic life cannot be reduced to a simplistic narrative of hegemony and decline. We must resist these simplistic accounts, many of which feed off false myths about the origins and development of the Afrikaans language. “

He said that the existence of the language could not be attributed to a single race.

“The history of Afrikaans is manifold. It is a language that was once spoken by “the peasants, the urban proletariat, whatever their ethnic origin, and even the middle class of civil servants, traders and teachers.” This dark history teaches us that Afrikaans is more than the language of “racists, oppressors and non-reconstructed nationalists”, but that it “bears the imprint of a fierce tradition of anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, ‘universal humanism and anti-apartheid activism’.

However, he added that Afrikaans could not benefit from an exclusion compared to other languages.

“Afrikaans speakers must, however, accept that their language now enjoys equal status to the 10 other official languages. Afrikaans cannot continue to take advantage of its privileged position to the exclusion of other indigenous languages, which were so terribly neglected under apartheid.

Majiedt said English had become the dominant language out of necessity, despite its colonial heritage.

“Universities as intellectual centers of transformative constitutionalism must lead the charge of decolonizing language. “

The court ruled that if Unisa decides to continue the language policy adopted in 2016, the requirements of article 29 (2) of the Constitution must be met.

The decision was hailed by Afriforum who said it was a victory for Afrikaans students and language rights.

“This marks the start of a new chapter in empowering all those who are not speakers of English in higher education. It is fair to say that private educational institutions are free to offer education in the language of their choice, but being used as the language of instruction in a higher education institution is of great importance for survival. and the continued development of a language. Therefore, when a language is phased out in an institution, the decision has huge ramifications and the decision cannot be easily accepted. The court confirmed this point today with the ruling and upheld the right to access Afrikaans native language education in public and private institutions for students of all income groups, ”the official said. AfriForum Cultural Affairs, Alana Bailey.

Unisa said they are still studying the judgment and will respond in due course.

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