THE OBSERVANCE OF THE USE OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT DURING THE COVID-19 CRISES

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) is responsible for monitoring the observance of the Use of Official Languages Act 12 of 2012 (UOLA), which, as the country faces this global pandemic, is critical in ensuring that the linguistic rights of South Africans are not infringed during this state of national disaster, which if not observed, could have catastrophic implications for the country. The obligation to ensure the availability of essential information around Covid-19 and the national lockdown in all official languages is of utmost importance as it pertains to life and death.

PanSALB has, so far, approached various organs of state in relation to some areas that were found to be in contravention of linguistic rights of language users as dictated by the Constitution in relation to the COVID-19 response.

PanSALB commends both The Presidency, Department of Health as well as the National Command Council (NCC) for their response in the inclusion of the South African Sign Language during media briefings, which was done through consultations with PanSALB. However, more still needs to be done to ensure the instant inclusion of the nine official indigenous languages.

South Africa, with its society historically divided on linguistic margins, language will play a pivotal role in the National Command Council’s efforts in ensuring effective Covid-19 awareness, debunking of misconceptions or misinformation, raising communal consciousness, ensuring adherence to lockdown rules and ultimately saving lives.

In a bid to help curb the spread of the virus, PanSALB remains committed to translating pertinent information related to the COVID-19 and has so far  made the following translations available; State of Disaster Declaration by President Cyril Ramaphosa, COVID-19 information on safety precautions for the Department of Health (and is currently working on updating these), Lockdown Regulations from the Department of Justice which are all available on the institution’s online media platforms.

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