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Department of Arts and Culture to Introduce South African Languages Bill in Parliament This Year

August 2, 2017

Department of Arts and Culture

Arts and culture deputy minister Joe Phaahla announced in his budget vote speech to members of the National Assembly that his department would, this year, submit the South African Languages Bill to Parliament for processing.

“Part of who we are as South Africans is expressed through our languages and our shared embrace of a multilingual nation,” he said.

“Freedom of expression, and of creativity, can only take full effect if we recognise the importance of mother tongues and the right of our people to speak, read and write in the languages of their choice.”

According to the deputy minister, the bill will seek to:

· promote the inclusive use of all South Africa’s official languages;
· ensure unhindered and equal access to government services and programmes, to education, and to knowledge and information; and to
· pursue the entrenchment of language equity and language rights so that both national unity and democracy are promoted.

The Pan South African Languages Board was established in terms of Pan South African Languages Board Act 59 of 1995 in order to:

· develop all 11 official South African languages; and
· promote multilingualism in South Africa.

On 16 March 2010, in a court application brought about by Cornelius Lourens seeking an order compelling government to finalise and promulgate national legislation to regulate and monitor the use of all eleven official languages, judge Ben du Plessis ruled that government had two years within which to process the required statute.

According to a media statement following the ruling, while embracing its spirit, the board found it “regrettable” that it had taken a court case of this nature to “sensitise government about the need to honour the Constitution and cater for the linguistic needs of all … communities”.

“We have been labelled … a toothless watch dog because our founding act does not bestow enough monitoring mechanisms to deal with transgressors. We have been calling for the enactment of this legislation, as we feel it will give us more authority,” the statement continued.

In a media statement following the 5 April 2011 launch of the new 15-year teacher education development and planning framework, higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande said that the production of African language foundation phase teachers had been identified as a critical area requiring priority attention.