Afrikaans-speakers – particularly in Western Cape – will have every reason to call the government and the institutions involved to account if they fail to address their rights in terms of section 29(2).
It is equally important to take into account the need to redress the results of past racial discriminatory laws and practices. In this regard it is essential that the tertiary education system should address the needs of Coloured South Africans who have the lowest university participation rate of any community in South Africa. The needs of disadvantaged black and Coloured English-speaking students in the Western Cape are adequately addressed by the other three universities in the province that offer tuition solely in English – but there is no provision for disadvantaged Coloured Afrikaans-speakers – particularly those from the rural areas of the Western Cape.
Ironically, English is not being used primarily to accommodate the needs of disadvantaged black and Coloured English-speakers – but those of relatively advantaged white English-speakers who have come to Stellenbosch from other parts of South Africa.
The Foundation rejects the idea that Afrikaans, the predominant language in the Western Cape, can be regarded as a language of exclusion – and also rejects the unconstitutional notion that English has somehow or other become the sole unofficial national language – and the default language of inclusion. Clearly, for many Afrikaans-speaking university candidates and candidates who speak other indigenous languages, it may well be a language of exclusion.
The Foundation unequivocally rejects the notion present in many aspects of the current debate that Afrikaans is somehow or other tainted by the past and that its speakers and their cultures and traditions occupy an inferior moral position. Such ideas come close to undermining the foundational right of Afrikaans-speakers to human dignity – the value from which all other constitutional values flow.
In this regard, the Council should also bear in mind the key requirement in section 9(4) of the Constitution that “no person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone” inter alia on the grounds of language or race.
In addition to all of this, the Council should be guided by the entirely practical consideration of whether or not it wishes to alienate a significant portion of its support base – and perhaps the overwhelming base for funding and donations.
The issue at stake is whether South Africa will develop as a multilingual and multicultural society with linguistically and culturally diverse institutions – as required by the Constitution – or whether the global language English – and African hegemony – will be imposed on everyone in accordance with the demographic representivity ideology of the ruling Alliance. Of one thing we can be sure: if Afrikaans does not survive as a language of tuition at university level it is difficult to see how any of our other indigenous languages will survive.
Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation