The civil rights organisation AfriForum is troubled by the way in which professional councils and similar institutions treat language rights and deal with the interests of South Africans who do not speak English.
The issue was once again been brought to AfriForum’s attention when an Afrikaans-speaking member who was ordered to appear before the Council for Medical Schemes, was also denied an Afrikaans hearing. He is now compelled to find an interpreter and foot the bill himself.
According to Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum responsible for language rights issues, this practice may give rise to serious violations of many rights. “Our member is fairly fluent in English and can contract an interpreter to act on his behalf, but what happens in the case of a person who has to face similar hearings before professional councils and who is not as proficient or well-off?”
Bailey once again emphasised that people are very seldom so familiar with the vocabulary of a second language that they are able to completely understand all legal aspects and arguments and be able to answer these appropriately. “As a result, misunderstandings may lead to serious transgressions of the law, and in the most serious of cases even criminal prosecution or the end of one’s career.”
AfriForum encourages the public to demand interpreting services from councils to ensure that their rights are protected. “According to the census figures of 2011, the mother tongue of more than 90% of South Africans isn’t English. These people have a right to representation in their own language when their careers or futures are on the line,” Bailey says.