The FF Plus today formally asked the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to holistically investigate the attack on Afrikaans at educational institutions, with the University of Pretoria as its focal point, Adv. Anton Alberts, the parliamentary spokesperson on Higher Education for the FF Plus said.
Adv. Alberts is requesting the HRC, amongst others, to investigate the attack on Afrikaans, fully taking into account the protection that the country’s Constitution provides to Afrikaans and other languages of the country, the approach of international law toward minorities and their rights, and in particular, two international conventions which obligates the South African government to protect minorities, including their language and culture.
The full complaint to the HRC follows below:
UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA – NEW ENGLISH ONLY LANGUAGE POLICY
We would like to submit the attached complaint for your attention and investigation.
Although the central focus of the complaint is on the University of Pretoria, the supporting department, namely that of Higher Education and Training, also deserve scrutiny so as to ensure a holistic enquiry.
Our complaint emanates especially from the information comprised in the attached media articles from Business Day and News24, both dated 22 February 2016, attached hereto and marked annexures “A” and “B”.
These articles reveals the following shocking information regarding the university of Pretoria`s newly announced English only language policy. The University of Pretoria (UP) has announced that in future the language policy dictates that all lectures should be offered in English only. This is a drastic departure from the previous position where Afrikaans and English were used as the languages of instruction. This follows the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) outspoken hostility and violent actions towards Afrikaans as a language of instruction at South African universities, especially at the traditional Afrikaans universities of Stellenbosch and Pretoria. The decision to eradicate Afrikaans as a medium of instruction was taken despite the fact that about 30% of students at the UP are Afrikaans-speaking. They constitute a sizable minority whose rights are being trampled upon in a unilateral manner by the university authorities. They have not being consulted on this and they have no say in the new language policy adopted.
The only manner in which the impasse at UP can be resolved – given the current confrontation between Afrikaans-speaking and Afrikaans-supporting students on the one hand and the EFF on the other, is to find the appropriate Constitutional space for minority rights in South Africa. This is a matter that has not been given proper attention since 1994.
What is making matters worse at the UP is that the demand and process to destroy Afrikaans at the UP is taking place at a historical moment where more or less one hundred years ago the British authorities launched an unprecedented assault on Afrikaners and Afrikaans-speaking people in general. The current situation is thus quite explosive and needs to be dealt with wisdom and in accordance with the prescriptions of the Constitution, but more so in line with International Law as it relates to minorities and their relationships with the majority. It is our view that such a balance can be achieved and that the current impasse can be resolved to the satisfaction of everyone.
It is in this regard that we request the assistance of the Human Rights Commission and hereby request the SAHRC to launch an investigation regarding the status of minority rights within South Africa, with a special focus on the right to receive mother-tongue instruction at tertiary level and specifically how it fits with the Constitutional and International Law regimes.
As a point of departure we submit the following:
1. While Section 29(2) of the Constitution states that "everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable” and the qualification of “reasonably practicable” is freely used by the government and the Minister of Higher Education and Training to deny Afrikaans and other official languages their place at universities, we submit that the excuse of “reasonably practicable” must be duly investigated. We submit that the Department of Higher Education and Training receives a sizable amount of the budget each year that is not spent on furthering the goal of “education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions”. We submit that the Minister, his Department and the EFF is furthering an ideological agenda to rid all public educational institutions of Afrikaans. The Minister is on record that he will even close down private tertiary institutions that are exclusively Afrikaans. (The legal question is how this attitude sits with Section 31(1)(b) of the Constitution?) We will forthwith submit a file of evidence providing proof of the agenda to destroy Afrikaans completely as a language of instruction. We also submit that the management of the UP is playing the game out in accordance with this agenda and that the ‘pressure’ applied by the EFF is a useful excuse to destroy Afrikaans at the UP. The same is taking place on basic education level and we will also be lodging a separate complaint in this regard.
2. We also wish to draw your attention to the two international treaties ratified by the South African government that must be taken into account in terms of Sections 231. These treaties comply with Sections 231(2):
a. International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights:
i. Section 27 confirms the rights of minorities to use their own language – not to be denied that right.
We will submit further evidence that the South African government never complied with the reporting requirements of this Treaty until we caught them out upon which they hastily started complying. This confirms our view that the government does not in any way or manner take these rights seriously. To date we have not had sight of the report prepared and submitted to the Treaty governing body by government. No minorities were consulted in preparing the report either.
b. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
i. Section 13(1) states as follows:
The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
ii. Having regard to the turmoil taking place at the UP, it is clear that the Afrikaans students are of the view that their human rights and fundamental freedoms have been violated in a most serious manner by unilaterally destroying Afrikaans.
We submit that it is now the time to act so as ensure the rights of minorities in South Africa as it relates to mother-tongue instruction at tertiary educational level. In this, and in the interest to find a just balance between minorities and the majority, we request your assistance and investigation as a matter of urgency.
Contact numbers: 082 391 3117 / 083 419 5403