It is within this context that the Foundation has brought to the CRL Commission’s attention remarks made by Minister Nzimande with regard to the Afrikaans-medium higher educational institution Akademia, in which he is reported to have said that that “there is no place for a private university in which Afrikaans is the only language of tuition” and that such an institution would necessarily be “racist”.
The Foundation has inter alia asked the Commission to investigate the Minister’s contention that (1) single medium institutions providing education in any language other than English are impermissible and (2) a single medium Afrikaans institution must necessarily be racist – even though the Afrikaans-speaking community includes large numbers of people from all South Africa’s racial communities.
The Minister’s remarks appear to be in contravention of inter alia the following constitutional provisions:
- Section 6 – which deals with official languages;
- Section 9(3) – which prohibits unfair discrimination by the state on various grounds – including language;
- Section 29(2) of the Constitution that stipulates that “everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice…”; and
- Section 29(3) which states that everyone has the right to establish and maintain at their own expense, private educational institutions that comply with listed requirements.
The Foundation has pointed out that although the matter that the Foundation has brought to the Commission’s attention relates primarily to the language rights of the Afrikaans-speaking population, it clearly affects the equally valid rights of the speakers of all of South Africa’s other official indigenous languages. In terms of the Minister’s pronouncements it would, presumably, be equally unacceptable to establish private or public single-medium universities that chose to provide single medium tuition in isiZulu, Setswana or in any of South Africa’s other indigenous official languages.
According to the Minister’s dictum only English is accepted as the general language of access to university and by extension to general education. This accords to English a de facto status that approaches that of a sole official language. This approach is irreconcilable with the whole structure and purpose of section 6 of the Constitution and the requirement that all official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably.
The submission requests the Commission to recommend to the Minister that, in all his actions and policies, he ensure that all South Africa’s official languages are developed and enjoy parity of esteem. The Minister must also be advised not to adopt any legislation or regulations that may negatively impact on the rights of any South African linguistic community.
Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation
8 July 2015