The right of all 11 languages to be given parity of esteem and equitable treatment is given effect in the Founding Provisions of the Constitution, as well as the Use of Official Languages Act, 12 of 2012, which was promulgated “To provide for the regulation and monitoring of the use of official languages by national government for government purposes”, i.e. to enable access to goods and services by South Africans from government without language being an impediment.

The DAC has a mandate that includes a responsibility for the promotion of arts, culture, heritage and language to build a socially-cohesive society. Additionally, the DAC has the responsibility for oversight and management of the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), whose mission is to create the conditions and promote languages used in South Africa, both official ones, sign language, and others in use. In the light of this, one might make a safe assumption that the language policy of DAC would be robust, pro-active and enabling.

Unfortunately, it is not.

In a call for comments on its proposed and reviewed Official Language Policy on 8 March 2019, the DAC has effectively presented its 2014 policy, to the letter. It remains a weak and an unimaginative document, devoid of substance and practicable action.

In its recommendations to the DAC, the CUD has emphasised that neglect of any of the languages, especially in the work of government departments, risks failure in communication and information, even failure to access much-needed goods and services. Cogent language polices in government departments, that are effective in practice, are an aid to inclusive and responsive government and governance. The DAC must be a leader amongst government departments in the effective implementation of the Use of Official Languages Act, 12 of 2012.

Its call for comments on its language policy must ensure follow-up and robust action.

Issued by the Centre for Unity in Diversity
10 April 2018

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