Nzimande dismisses DA complaint over Afrikaans as an official language

The DA lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission, saying the minister's insistence on defining Afrikaans as a foreign language in South Africa was hateful and unconstitutional.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande at a media briefing on 18 January 2021. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - The higher education ministry has dismissed with contempt a Democratic Alliance (DA) complaint against Minister Blade Nzimande.

The ministry responded on Tuesday morning, saying Nzimande recognised Afrikaans as one of the country's 11 official languages.

But it added he can't allow Afrikaans to be used as a means of exclusion and oppression nor as a means to pursue a racist Afrikaner nationalist agenda.

“Afrikaans should and must be located in a democratic South Africa and be rescued from a white right-wing agenda. This should not be viewed as being in conflict with promoting mother tongue instruction in a democratic South Africa,” said Minister Nzimande in a statement.

The DA lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission, saying the minister's insistence on defining Afrikaans as a foreign language in South Africa was hateful and unconstitutional.

This follows a recent Constitutional Court ruling that University of South Africa change its language policy to include teaching and learning in Afrikaans by the start of the 2023 academic year.

“In consultation with my legal team, I will communicate further on the implications of the Constitutional Court judgment on the entire Post School Education and Training sector,” said Minister Nzimande.

The DA’s Leon Schreiber said: “It is now time for the Human Rights Commission to step in. We implore the commission to take up this matter with Nzimande and force him to include Afrikaans in the policy framework definition of indigenous languages so that it can take its rightful place as an official indigenous and equal South African language.”

Schreiber claimed Nzimande’s classification of Afrikaans as a foreign language was contained in the language policy framework for public higher education institutions.

But the department's statement added that: "The DA has forever been narrowly preoccupied with Afrikaans only, with very little to say about the important matter of the development of the nine other official languages that had been suppressed and deliberately underdeveloped under colonialism and apartheid."

Nzimande said he would study both the Constitutional Court judgment on Unisa language policy and the DA complaint filed with the Human Rights Commission.

"We are however more than determined to defend our language policy in higher education and we are prepared to engage anyone with a genuine desire to tackle inequalities in language use and development in our country."

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