Linguistic Diversity at Stellenbosch University
Section 29 in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa confers upon everyone in the Republic the right “to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible”. It further declares that such education may be received “in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable” taking into account “equity, practicability and the need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws and practices.”
The University of Stellenbosch announced a proposed change to the institution’s language policy last week declaring that language should not be used to limit access to education, thus English would be the main medium of instruction at the university. This progressive decision follows unrelenting campaigns waged by students and society at large for inclusionary linguistic diversity that leaves no student behind. It also comes on the back of numerous calls by government over decades for meaningful transformation at the institution that would reflect a university of all the people of South Africa and not merely a laarger that entrenches and perpetuates racial division and discord. The decision is a victory for South Africa, and should have been hailed as such by all progressive members of society intent on building a truly non-racial South Africa which offers equal opportunities for all its citizens.
It has therefore come as no surprise that those opposed to transformation in South Africa would choose to retreat to their right wing and exclusionary tendencies, seeking to derail progress. The DA and the FF Plus have once again placed on public record their opposition to transformation and their determination to derail advancement of South Africans in general, and blacks in particular, electing instead to protect narrow interests at the expense of the vast majority of our people. They quote the Constitution selectively that education must be in a language of their choice, conveniently forgetting that the Constitution explicitly states the need for equity, practicability and redress of past racially discriminatory laws and practices. This stance is reflective of the ingrained racist practices of these parties who will opportunistically call for inclusion whenever they believe such calls are directed against government but will resist all efforts to ensure that residual enclaves of Afrikaaner nationalism are transformed for the benefit of the people of South Africa as a whole. The DA rejected Black Economic Empowerment and is resisting a change in the Stellenbosch University’s language policy for the same reason – it is a party that exists to protect minority privilege and institutionalized racism at the expense of the black people of South Africa and the country as a whole. Dismantling apartheid was not only for the liberation of the black majority but also to liberate the oppressor who, it seems through the DA’s actions, viewed themselves as a privileged race unable and unwilling to work for equality of all South Africa’s people.
The African National Congress unambiguously supports the proposal by the Stellenbosch University to change their controversial language policy to one cognizant of the immense responsibility to build a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it. For far too long, institutional autonomy has been used as a smokescreen to shield the nefarious agendas of those opposed to change. The veil has now been lifted and the real proponents of racial exclusion once again unmasked as the DA and the FF Plus. It is no coincidence of history that the last President of apartheid South Africa, Mr. De Klerk, through his foundation, has joined the chorus of those anti transformation and anti progress who still believe in racism though they shout democracy. As South Africans we must resist all attempts to delegitimise the genuine struggles of our people over many decades and the very loud calls by our students for institutions that belong to us all as a country. The project of fundamental socio-economic transformation is not and can never be one sided. It requires us all to compromise and make concessions for the benefit of the people as a whole.
Issued by ANC