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21 MAY 2019, PRETORIA

PanSALB TO AGAIN REQUEST MEETING WITH THE OFFICE OF CHIEF JUSTICE TO ADDRESS ALLEGATIONS OF LANGUAGE DISCRIMINATION IN SOUTH AFRICAN COURTS

 21 MAY 2019, PRETORIA

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) is concerned about the continuous ostracism of the historically marginalized South African indigenous official languages by our courts of law as demonstrated on Monday, 20 May 2019 by the Pietermaritzburg high court, when it refused Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane the right to address it in isiZulu.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996) recognises the historically diminished use and status of the nine marginalized South African indigenous official languages: Sesotho sa Leboa – Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu. There is an obligation on the state to take practical and positive measures to elevate the status, and advance the use of, these languages (section 6(2)(3)).

Considering these obligations and also that the Use of Official Languages Act (Act No. 12 of 2012) (UOLA) in essence fosters multilingualism within working spaces and beyond, in the spirit of social cohesion and nation building, which is being currently undermined by our courts.

The assault on historically marginalized South African indigenous official languages received a boost from an apparent resolution which was passed in a Heads of Courts meeting held in October 2014 that the language of record for courts should be English. The report went further to state that the resolution was reaffirmed in a recent Heads of Courts meeting held on 31 March 2017.

“Since 2017 in my capacity as the Chief Executive Officer of PanSALB, I have been trying to seek a discussion with the Heads of Courts about this resolution without any success,” said Dr Rakwena Monareng.

n light of the latest drama wherein the Pietermaritzburg high court refused Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane the right to make a 10-minute opening statement on the case in isiZulu, PanSALB will pursue a meeting with the Honourable Chief Justice, Mr Justice M Mogoeng, in order to object to this continuous assault and discrimination of historically marginalized South African indigenous official languages.

PanSALB is concerned that the reported resolutions may not be in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, in particular section 6(2) thereof. It should be borne in mind that language has an impact on many facets of society and our lives, including identity.

Authorising the exclusive use of any language over other official languages (in particular, historically marginalised languages) should be avoided if the inhabitants of South Africa are to fully enjoy the society envisioned in our Constitution. One of the founding provisions of our Constitution is the recognition of all the official languages and the obligation imposed on the State to recognise the indigenous languages of our people and to advance their use.