Sign Language Act Welcomed

Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation, on 26/07/2023


On Wednesday 19 July, President Ramaphosa signed the South African Sign Language Act into law, a welcome step “to promote the rights of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing”.

The Presidency held that “South African Sign Language (SASL) is an indigenous language that constitutes an important element of South African linguistic and cultural heritage”.

Indeed, Section 30 of the Constitution grants South Africans the right to use the language and participate in the cultural life of their choice. Language rights are strongly entrenched, not only in the Bill of Rights, but also in Section 6 of the Constitution, which recognises South Africa’s eleven official languages and will now include sign language as its twelfth official language. 

Section 6 also requires the Government to “ensure that all official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably” – meaning that sign language, alongside all the other indigenous languages, must be promoted and developed across the country.

The FW de Klerk Foundation recognises the importance of creating an inclusive environment for all members of society. We are particularly encouraged by the opportunities that SASL may unlock for the deaf community, given our long-standing support of the National Institute for the Deaf, which provides professional guidance, work partnerships, rehabilitation, and spiritual and social development to this community.

It is also reassuring that Parliament has acknowledged that SASL is not a universal language – since different countries have their own sign languages and regional dialects – and has decreed that the various (sign language) dialects should also be recognised.