This is a public statement from stakeholder parties striving for sustainable Afrikaans education
in public schools. It is addressed to Minister Angie Motshekga, as the political Head of the
Department of Basic Education as a party to the amendment bill.
We declare as follows:
A promise that language and culture would be protected in the new dispensation was
made as part of the constitutional settlement in 1994. This would include tolerance and
space for the preservation and development of Afrikaans and other indigenous
languages. The preservation of Afrikaans as academic and scientific language was
presented as an asset in this settlement, along with the development of other
indigenous languages. It is also entrenched in section 6 of the Constitution.
During the 28 years of ANC government, no serious effort has been made to give effect
to this constitutional mandate to retain and develop Afrikaans as an academic and
scientific language, or to develop other indigenous languages in addition to Afrikaans.
Some of the proposed amendments to the Schools Act are a calculated attack on
Afrikaans education and its speakers as a language community across the country.
Afrikaans is the third most spoken language in the country with more than seven million
mother tongue speakers, most of whom come from the brown community. It will,
through bureaucratic and ideological decisions, deprive current Afrikaans speakers of
their constitutional right to education in a language of their choice. It will also constitute
an irreparable and permanent breach by the government of the constitutional
settlement reached in 1994.
A misrepresentation that Afrikaans education is a barrier to access to education in the
country underlies certain BELA provisions. According to the ANC, broader access to
education is only possible if Afrikaans education is thwarted by legislation.
In contrast to the ANC’s continued efforts to cast suspicion on Afrikaans education, the
Afrikaans language community strives for a positive, sustainable environment for
Afrikaans education, and we are actively committed to multilingualism and nonracialism.
This bill stems from a superficial view of language and is aimed at disregarding the
identity of Afrikaans speakers and at counteracting, through education, the linguistic
diverse nature of the country and in so doing to enforce English hegemony.
Their continued efforts to cast suspicion on Afrikaans education also presuppose that
its speakers are unworthy citizens who should not be allowed to let their language last
in public educational institutions. It also assumes that the state and its bureaucrats
solely have the wisdom to decide what is in the interest of Afrikaans speakers. It is
unforgivable that future generations will be deprived of their right to mother tongue
education in schools by a hostile government, eventually being forced into the ANC’s
majority view of Afrikaans as an unworthy educational language without having any
choice in the matter.
A further consequence of the capturing of Afrikaans education is that it undermines the
involvement and generosity of Afrikaans school communities nationwide and that
Afrikaans communities’ direct say in improving their communities through education is
taken away from them by the state.
Finally, specific BELA provisions represent a breach of trust by a government that was
co-responsible for the establishment of constitutional instruments to create room for
Afrikaans and other indigenous languages to continue in the new dispensation, only to
be using those very constitutional instruments to undo Afrikaans education.
We hereby declare that should BELA succeed, it will be accepted as a unilateral breach
by the government of the constitutional settlement of 1994, and that this breach of trust
between the Afrikaans language community and the government would be irreparable