SUBMISSIONS ON THE SOUTH AFRICAN
LANGUAGE BILL [B23-2011] AS PER
INVITATION BY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON
ARTS AND CULTURE
We really applaud the contributions and the developments made on the
Bill from the previous version to the stage that it is today. It is clear that
various stakeholders were consulted to share their insight on the Bill.
Nevertheless, we feel that some sections still need to be revisited and
corrected. Hence comments below.
THE OBJECTIVES OF THE ACT :
MONITORING AND REGULATION OF THE USE OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGES
Words such as “regulate” and “monitor” in section 2(a) should be clarified
and defined in section 1; they are subject to many interpretations and can
mean anything to anyone. These words can be swayed so as to provide
for where a particular language may or may not be used, thereby setting
stringent restrictions that will be justified by the interpretation of these
The concern is how government will execute the monitoring and
regulating process to ensure that justice is done.
We believe that government should prioritise the Bill’s accreditation,
capacitating human personnel in the language practice profession. If this
is not persued’ it may create challenges and hinder progress and the
development of languages, and it might even fail to address the
challenges that the Bill seeks to address
In monitoring and regulating, standards, norms and values of the
language profession must be set and outlined, to ensure that a
professional service is provided in the public sector at a required
standard. Once the language practice is professionalised, the needs
analysis should per sector and its purpose should be done be done to
ensure that a service which is provided is sustained.
The legislation must ensure that one of the watchdog institutions such as
PanSALB, the Commission for Protecting the Rights of Cultural, Religious
and Linguistic Minorities; National Language Units, Provincial Language
Committees, and the South African Human Rights Commission are not
just toothless dogs in matters that relate to language rights and use but
rather should be seen to be enforcing rules and constitutional rights.
These watchdogs should also be able to guard against promotion of
languages at the expense of other’s by using the pretext to pursue other
motives’ which may delay the progress of promotion and use of official
Government, through the Minister of Arts and Culture, must take drastic
steps and remedial efforts in case where the watchdog fails to enforce
compliance by every government department, entity or enterprise to
promote the equitable use of official languages.
Establishment of Language Policy in public entities and public
The current appalling state of language use by public entities and public
enterprises is as the result of a lack of the existence or implementation of
a language policy. The constitutional rights of most indigenous language
users and speakers have been compromised by this state of affairs
evident in public entities and public enterprises.
To address this situation, public entities must be forced, through
legislation, to embrace a language policy in their operational strategic
planning. By so doing, these public entities and public enterprises will be
in a position to consolidate and bring cohesion and citizenry assurance for
the language communities they are servicing. Patriotism and citizenship
would be consolidated through initiatives regarding language use and
promotion by government among various language communities in the
persuance of service delivery.
In the process of establishing a language policy, stakeholders within or
related to those public entities and public enterprises must be given a
platform on which to present those inputs which should be incorporated in
the language policy. For instance, if a particular public entity or public
enterprise is situated in a community which is very diverse in terms of
language groupings, initiatives should be made to establish what the
community’s demographics and should be used to inform which official
languages would best serve the language community as a whole without
prejudice and alienation regarding those who are not represented in the
section 4(2) (d): This will take us back to the era where we had the two-
language policy. It is not advisable for a national department to have a
two- language policy for government purposes, as this would merely help
the two privileged language speakers and alienate others who are not
catered for by the two-language policy. That would constitute a violation
of the basic human right of having access to information and also to the
possible attrition of languages which have not been adequately developed
and intellectualised. We suggest that all languages must be given equal
consideration, for economic reasons; demographics must inform service
delivery for each language.
section 4(3)(b): The language policy to be displayed in national
departments, entities or enterprises should not mean that someone
speaking a different official language from that of the language policy in
the department, entity, enterprise should not be assisted or should be
alienated because he/she speaks a different language, the department
concern should assist anyone regardless of which language is used.
Clause 4, the two-language policy has a shortcoming of being open to the
expression of tribalism.
BUILDING HUMAN CAPACITY AND LANGUAGE PROFESSIONALS BY
HIGHER INSTITUTIONS OF LEARNING
In addition to the many functions of the NLU mentioned in section 6, we
suggest that the revalorising and revitalising of “minority” languages
should be made an added responsibility, and that they must foster
linguistic pluralism in national departments than to opt for two language
policy as stipulated in section 4(2)(d).
There is a huge number of graduates, mostly from former black
universities, who graduate with language courses up to the level of
masters degree. For example, many language graduates and language
professionals feel disadvantaged by the labour market since fewer
economic opportunities which recognise the use of indigenous language
are created and provided for them, hence leaving them disillusioned and
seeing no reason in persuing language studies. Revitalisation and
revalorisation of African languages to be used in many domains, not just
in the classroom which is of utmost importance. In addition,
intellectualisation of South African indigenous languages should be
prioritised and those who are willing to study African languages or
linguistics should be encouraged, while universities which offer these
courses should be developed to cater for more South African indigenous
It may be a meritable argument that many people (language
communities) on the ground have the feeling that we are still trapped in
the colonial era because some still experience langauge barriers and
constraints, as the former official languages still dominate the linguistic
landscape of the country where we have eleven official languages.
Clarity on what steps should be taken against public entities and public
enterprises which do not adhere to enforce this legislation? Some of the
Chapter 9 institutions that have been given constitutional mandate to
safeguard, promote and address concerns relating to language use and
promotion have been ineffective in ensuring that they exercise this
authority, or may be failing owing to their limitations as they may allege.
The Act’s objective is further stated as that of promoting language
management, however, questions still remain unanswered around the
democratisation of language bodies such as SATI (South African
Translation Institute) that is responsible for the accreditation of language
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A LANGUAGE POLICY
The establishment of a language policy should not become a futile
exercise, as has been experienced at the past in some public entities and
public enterprises, in terms of realising the objectives of this legislation.
To ensure that the establishment of a language policy does not just
become another talkshop, stakeholders within the public entities and
public enterprises should be afforded an opportunity to submit their views
and opinions so that these are incorporated into the establishment of the
language policy. The National Language Unit should consequently become
a custodian to ensure that regular updates are given in the development
and implementation of the language policy. A review process should also
be undertaken with timelines stipulated to ensure that it aligns itself with
the operational needs and changes of the institutions and orgranisations
being established vis a vis the needs it is intended to address in its day-
CLAUSE 5 AND CLAUSE 9
A concern exists that the monitoring and regulating responsibility given to
the Minister regarding the use of official languages appears to be too
much to be taken care of, given the already busy schedule that befits the
Minister as a politician and a senior official of government.
Consequently it is sugggested that a ministerial task team be established
by the Minister to deal with this issue and report to the Minister. The task
team should be responsible for the day-to-day running of the issues
pertaining to monitoring and regulating of official languages in public
entities and public enterprises.
THE NATIONAL LANGUAGE UNIT
Clarity is needed on the role of the National Language Unit in relation to
the role that PanSALB and Provincial Language Comittees are already
playing regarding language issues.
It is a concern that one of the cornerstones of any government
undertaking is funding. The appalling state of affairs that relates to
language promotion and development is the collapse that ensued due to ‘
a lack or insufficient financial support’.
SANCTIONS FOR NON-COMPLIANCE.
Clause 10 is the Bill is silent on the specifics in relation to the sanctions to
be meted out for non-compliance by departments regarding the
legislation. The fact that the NLU (National Language Unit) only requests
the minister to `intervene` in respect of non-compliance leaves room for
a soft application of the law. Alternatively, the clause should clearly cover
the sanctions to be applied by the Minister in order to curb chances of
non-compliance. Intervention is open to many interpretations, viz
workshops, provision of written reports, etc. A strong message should be
sent to the public in order to ensure that there is parity and equitable
treatment of all South African languages. This Act should ultimately serve
as a deterrent for ignoring the provisions of the law.
These are the concerns that we have noted in respect of the Bill and our
additions regarding matters that we felt the Bill should include. We would
greatly appreciate invited to participate in deliberations on the Bill on 17
and 18 of January 2012. If the invitation is extended, we would request
the allocation of six seats.
Author: Action Group