Representatives of the civil rights organization AfriForum have been attending the twelfth session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva, Switzerland, since this morning. The theme of this year’s event is “Education, language and the human rights of minorities”.
In her submission, Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs, expressed concerns about the South African Constitution’s so-called protection of minority languages in South Africa, which is not realised in practice due to a lack of political will. She also mentioned that when courts rule on cases pertaining to the language rights of non-English-speaking South Africans, judgments predominantly are in favour of monolingual English language policies, with arguments of affordability and social cohesion.
Late this afternoon, an unidentified representative of the South African government condemned the submission. He began by mentioning that the South African Constitution is regarded to be one of the best constitutions in the world. He did not say anything about the lack of political will to carry out its stipulations, but added that Afrikaans is a minority language that has been enforced on pupils for years and that since 1994 the government has been trying to assist the previously disadvantaged.
In addition he claimed that Afrikaans is still being used in almost every school in the country. He also said that the court cases referred to by AfriForum concerned monolingual Afrikaans schools. However, the court cases in question, mentioned by AfriForum, actually included amongst others the cases about the language policies of the Universities of the Free State, South Africa and Stellenbosch, where all courses were accessible to English-speaking students. Before his slot for a response expired, he argued that Afrikaans is still a compulsory school subject for all matriculants.
This gross deception of those present at an international forum is further evidence of the government’s hostile attitude towards Afrikaans.
“Fortunately, many of the linguistic experts present on the UN panel know the facts first-hand and have now taken note of the obvious attempt to conceal the government’s language rights violations. If AfriForum is given another opportunity for a further input, it will also be brought to the attention of the more than three hundred other international delegates,” Bailey adds.