Parliamentary debate: Heritage Day - Attacking Afrikaans does nothing to promote nation building

2019-09-19
Heloïse Denner

A nation's mother tongue is inextricably intertwined with it. It is the language that people use to work, dream and pray. It is, thus, lamentable that the ANC government talks about nation building on the one hand while on the other hand, it is targeting Afrikaans.

Our mother-tongue heritage is one of the most important factors that make all South Africans who and what they are and together we are a colourful, unique tapestry of different languages and cultures.

During the 1995 negotiations regarding the Constitution, the Constitutional Assembly placed an advertisement that said: "20 million women, 18 million men, 8 religions, 25 denominations, 31 cultural groups, 14 languages, 9 racial groups - 1 country".

Now, however, this beautiful tapestry is in jeopardy because our government advocates nation building and social cohesion, but is unwilling to promote multilingualism.

The 2008 Ministerial Committee report on transformation, social cohesion and the eradication of discrimination in public higher education institutions stated that there must be substantive and adequate multilingualism in academic and support services in all public universities in South Africa. That did not happen.

The current government policy does not promote the development of indigenous languages. The higher functions of the Afrikaans language have already been developed and yet it is being used as a political playball and is being labelled the "language of the oppressor" as part of the ANC and the EFF's Apartheid rhetoric for the sake of political gain in the absence of feasible policy.

Someone like Panyaza Lesufi, the Gauteng MEC for Education, is openly hostile toward Afrikaans and even goes as far as equating the use of the language with racism. The EFF's contempt for Afrikaans is evident in its crusade against white people even though the majority of Afrikaans-speaking people in South Africa are not even white.

If this is the example set by the country's leaders, mutual respect for each other and each other's languages and cultures and nation building cannot be cultivated. How can we have debates on our language heritage while millions of Afrikaans-speaking people's mother tongue is being abused by a bunch of snatch-thieves who are desperately trying to cling to power?

It is and always has been the FF Plus's view that multilingualism must be promoted and not only by speaking the languages, but also by developing the higher functions of the country's eleven official languages.


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