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FAK asks President Mbeki to take concrete steps around Afrikaans and the other indigenous 2005-07-07

The Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Associations, the FAK, welcomes President Mbeki’s statement that the language question must urgently be dealth with more energetically and in a more systematic way. There is no doubt that the injudicious handling of Afrikaans in particular and the indigenous languages in general since 1994 has unnecesarily handicapped the effort to democratize South Africa. South Africa will not be free before all the indigenous languages take up their proper place next to our international language, English.

President Mbeki’s acknowledgement that the ANC is failing to deal with the language question and Afrikaans in particular within the context of the Freedom Charter, is urgent and timely. Afrikaners will without doubt contribute with greater enthusiasm to a democratic South Africa if the gains that they made through their mother-tongue are no longer undermined, and are also extended to the other indigenous languages. If not, the very real and unnecessary possibility exists that Afrikaners will be forced back into a situation where they must fight only for their mother-tongue, which will serve neither the interests of Afrikaners nor of Africans.

This gesture in the direction of Afrikaners in particular and speakers of Afrikaans in general is not the first to have been made by President Mbeki, and it is of the utmost importance that this gesture is followed up by concrete and real steps. The FAK hereby appeals to President Mbeki to intervene from government’s side to end the pressure on Afrikaans schools and universities to effectively anglicize in the name of greater access. Such an anglicization process removes the speakers of Afrikaans’s access to quality education, and it also does not enhance access to quality education for speakers of other indigenous languages. The FAK also calls on President Mbeki to take concrete steps with speakers of Afrikaans and the other indigenous languages to make mother-tongue education a reality for all, and to give the other indigenous languages a firmer position in the higher education sector. It is also important for government not to back down from its recent decision to apply a new language policy in education in order to promote the indigenous languages. The reaction which has arisen from some sectors as if this decision “threatens” English is a tragic proof of the extent to which speakers of the indigenous languages have internalized a colonial lack of trust in our indigenous languages, and the FAK is committed with other language-orientated institutions to the eradication of this remnant of South Africa’s colonial and apartheid past.



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