Gelyke Kanse v University of Stellenbosch    

Indigenous minority languages considered by the Constitutional Court and decided that it was “impossible to set aside or override its conclusion that it was not reasonably practicable to introduce full parallel medium undergraduate teaching in order to avoid some diminution of Afrikaans”. 

“The first judgment candidly declares that “[e]ndorsing the University’s 2016 Language Policy as conforming with section 29(2) comes at a cost. Our judgment must acknowledge it”. It recognises that the “flood-tide of English” is a real threat to minority languages, including Afrikaans. It proceeds then to state that this risk is not Stellenbosch University’s burden, nor is the fact that Afrikaans has all but vanished as a language of instruction at other tertiary institutions. I think it may be helpful for the future if we explore what that cost is and who will have to bear the burden of carrying it.” [para 66]

Essence

Indigenous minority languages discussed and confirmed that Afrikaans is a cultural treasure of South African national life but hostility to minority languages exists.

Decision

(CCT311/17) [2019] ZACC 38 (10 October 2019)

Order

1. Leave to appeal is granted.
2. The appeal is dismissed, with no order as to costs in this Court.
3. The costs orders in the High Court are set aside.
4. In their place is substituted:
“There is no order as to costs.”

Judges

Mogoeng CJ, Cameron J, Froneman J, Jafta J, Khampepe J, Madlanga J, Mathopo AJ, Mhlantla J, Theron J, Victor AJ.

Judgments:

  • Cameron J (unanimous): [1] to [51]
  • Mogoeng CJ (concurring): [52] to [63]
  • Froneman J (concurring): [64] to [98] – see below

Heard on: 8 August 2019

Decided on: 10 October 2019

Reasons

‘None of the dignity-restoring and enhancing aspirational measures laid down in our Constitution should deliberately or inadvertently, be rendered unworthy of the constitutional space they occupy. Plans to enhance the status and promote the use of indigenous languages, in line with section 6 of our Constitution, must thus be developed and kept ready for implementation as soon as the contestation for our scarce resources, by key national priority areas, has ebbed out. Where immediate implementation is reasonably practicable it would arguably serve us well to act. And that process would hopefully extend to the possible recognition and equal development of all spoken languages of the First Nation people.” [para 63]

Court summary

“Section 29(2) of the Constitution — “reasonably practicable” — constitutionality of the language policy of the University of Stellenbosch — Afrikaans as a medium of instruction – access to higher education

Section 6 of the Constitution — protection and promotion of indigenous minority languages — diminished use and status”

Media summary

The following explanatory note is provided to assist the media in reporting this case and is not binding on the Constitutional Court or any member of the Court.

“On Thursday, 10 October 2019 at 10h00, the Constitutional Court handed down judgment in an application for leave to appeal directly to it against the judgment and order of the High Court of South Africa, Western Cape Division, Cape Town (High Court). This application concerned the decisions of the Senate and Council of the University of Stellenbosch (University) to adopt a new language policy for the University (2016 Policy). The 2016 Policy was adopted under the Higher Education Act and the National Language Policy for Higher Education (LPHE).

The 2016 Policy creates three language specifications: parallel medium, dual medium and single medium. Its effect is to adopt a preference for English in certain circumstances so as to advance the University’s goals of equal access, multilingualism and integration while also maintaining and preserving Afrikaans, subject to demand and within the University’s available resources. The University contended that the 2016 Policy, in contrast to the 2014 Policy that preceded it, does not exclude black and English-speaking students from full and equitable access to the University. While the Afrikaans language provision under the 2014 Policy could be preserved by fully parallel medium tuition, the cost would total about R640 million in infrastructure (including additional classrooms), plus about R78 million per year thereafter, in additional teaching and other personnel costs. This would entail a 20% increase in fees, an additional R8100 on top of the approximately R40 000 per year students on average pay now.

Gelyke Kanse is a voluntary association originally formed to oppose the 2016 Policy but which now has broader goals in seeking to promote Afrikaans mother-tongue education and the acceptance of mother-tongue education as indispensable to community development. Along with individual applicants, including black, brown and white students affected by the 2016 Policy, Gelyke Kanse approached the High Court seeking an order reviewing and setting aside the 2016 Policy and reinstating the 2014 Policy.

The High Court dismissed the application. It held that the University’s obligations under section 29(2) of the Bill of Rights are limited to providing Afrikaans education where reasonably practicable and through reasonable educational alternatives. In determining whether providing education in an official language of choice is “reasonably practicable”, the State must take into account what is fair, feasible and satisfies the need to remedy the results of past discriminatory laws and practices. Further, assessing what is reasonably practicable requires consideration both of resource constraints and logistics (the factual criterion), and of equity, redress and non-racialism (the constitutional criterion).

The High Court found that the 2014 Policy was not equitable as it denied black students not conversant in Afrikaans full access to the University. It also held that the LPHE, which promised extension of Afrikaans tertiary education, was important as a guiding document but it was not binding. The University adequately justified departing from the LPHE. In any event, the 2016 Policy was found to be consistent with the LPHE, which focuses on ensuring equitable access.

The applicants approached the Constitutional Court for direct leave to appeal. They asked the Court to set aside the 2016 Policy on grounds that it violates section 29(2), and also contravenes other constitutional provisions, including section 6(2), section 6(4), the equality clause and other provisions of the Bill of Rights.

In a unanimous judgment penned by Cameron J, the Court dismissed the appeal. The Court found that the 2016 Policy was constitutionally justified. “Reasonably practicable” in section 29(2) involves both a factual and normative (constitutional) element. The constitutional criterion of reasonable practicability is to be judged objectively, and requires an approach founded in evidence.

In this case, the University’s judgment on the cost of preserving Afrikaans tuition at the level in the 2014 Policy satisfies both the factual and normative elements in section 29(2). The University showed that, near-universally, brown and white-Afrikaans-speaking first-year entrants to the University are able to be taught in English. Though most entrants are able to receive tuition in Afrikaans, a significant minority cannot. The 2014 Policy created an exclusionary hurdle for specifically black students. The University also showed that classes conducted in Afrikaans, with interpreting from Afrikaans into English, made black students not conversant in Afrikaans feel marginalised, excluded and stigmatised.

This Court found that the University’s process in adopting the 2016 Policy was thorough, exhaustive, inclusive and properly deliberative. The University’s determinative motivation for introducing the new Policy was to facilitate equitable access to its campus, its teaching and learning opportunities by black students not conversant in Afrikaans. The University’s decision-making structures, with a scrupulous eye on racial equity, access and inclusiveness, judged that a downward adjustment of Afrikaans, without by any means eliminating it, was warranted. The University also determined that the cost of avoiding down-adjustment of Afrikaans was too high. This evidence established that continuing with the 2014 Policy was not “reasonably practicable”.

The Court noted that the flood-tide of English predominance risks jeopardising South Africa’s entire indigenous linguistic heritage. This is because the march of history both in South Africa and globally seems relentlessly hostile to minority languages, including Afrikaans, which is the mother-tongue of some seven million on a planet inhabited by seven billion people. But this could not be made the University’s burden.

A separate concurrence by the Chief Justice (with Cameron J concurring) agreed that it was neither reasonably practicable nor equitable to maintain the position as it was before the 2016 Policy came into being. Additionally, the understanding and application of reasonable practicability and the need for equitable access to education, stood to be guided by this Court’s articulation of these principles in AfriForum v Free State University. The separate concurrence also emphasized the need to develop all indigenous languages including the spoken languages of the First Nation people.

The concurrence also appeals to corporate citizens’ spirit of generosity to help preserve Afrikaans, and develop other indigenous languages, as essential tools for knowledge impartation and comprehension, by deploying resources to the establishment of private learning institutions envisaged by section 29(3) of the Constitution.

In a separate concurring judgment, Froneman J (with Cameron J concurring) agreed with the reasoning and outcome of the first judgment. The concurring judgment draws out the implications of the entrenchment of English’s dominance as a medium of instruction for the diminished use and protection of minority indigenous languages.”

Quotations from judgment

Note: Footnotes omitted and emphasis added

FRONEMAN J (Cameron J concurring):

[64] It is always a pleasure to read the elegant and persuasive judgments of my brother Cameron J. His judgment here (first judgment) is no exception. I concur in its reasoning and outcome. The first reason for doing so is that we are, of course, bound by this Court’s judgment in AfriForum CC on which the first judgment builds. My separate concurrence does not question the legal reasoning underlying the first judgment’s adherence to AfriForum CC, nor the legal reasoning of AfriForum CC itself. Judicial precedent is a fundamental aspect of the rule of law. This binding precedent is buttressed by recognising that, substantively, South Africa’s history and current inequality entail that the white Afrikaans-speaking minority, because of its historically and currently privileged position, cannot exact the same treatment as historically disadvantaged minorities. The substantive advantages the Afrikaans language minority has generally enjoyed, in contradistinction to other linguistic minorities, makes this inevitable.
Dit is altyd ‘n voorreg om my ampsbroeder, Cameron R, se elegante en meevoerende uitsprake te lees. Weereens is dit geen uitsondering nie. Ek stem saam met die eerste uitspraak se redevoering en uitslag. Die eerste rede daarvoor is natuurlik dat ons gebonde is aan hierdie Hof se uitspraak in AfriForum CC, waarop die eerste uitspraak voorbou. My afsonderlike uitspraak bevraagteken nie die onderliggende regsbeginsels van die eerste uitspraak se bevestiging en ondersteuning van AfriForum CC nie. Regspresedent is grondliggend tot ’n regstaat en die legaliteitsbeginsel.72 Maar hierdie bindende regspresedent word ondersteun deur die substantiewe erkenning dat ons Suid-Afrikaanse geskiedenis en huidige ongelykheid beteken dat wit Afrikaanssprekendes nie dieselfde behandeling as voorheen benadeelde taalminderheidsgroepe kan verwag nie.73 Die wesenlike voordele wat Afrikaanssprekendes geniet het in teenstelling met ander taalminderhede maak dit onvermydelik.

[65] Why, then, a separate concurrence? Simply put it is because, looking to the future, I believe a cautionary tale is needed.

Waarom ‘n afsonderlike instemmende uitspraak? Omdat, eenvoudig gestel, die pad vorentoe ‘n waarskuwing inhou.

[66] The first judgment candidly declares that “[e]ndorsing the University’s 2016 Language Policy as conforming with section 29(2) comes at a cost. Our judgment must acknowledge it”. It recognises that the “flood-tide of English” is a real threat to minority languages, including Afrikaans. It proceeds then to state that this risk is not Stellenbosch University’s burden, nor is the fact that Afrikaans has all but vanished as a language of instruction at other tertiary institutions. I think it may be helpful for the future if we explore what that cost is and who will have to bear the burden of carrying it.

Die eerste uitspraak verklaar rondborstig dat “[e]ndorsing the University’s 2016 Language Policy as conforming with section 29(2) comes at a cost. Our judgment must necessarily acknowledge it”.4 Dit erken dat die vloedgolf van Engels ‘n daadwerklike risiko inhou vir minderheidstale as onderrigtale, insluitend Afrikaans.5 Dit is nie die Universiteit van Stellenbosch se las nie, so ook nie die feitlike verdwyning van Afrikaans van ander têrsiêre instellings nie.6 Ek dink dit sal waardevol vir die toekoms wees om na te gaan wat die gevolge is en wie uiteindelik die las daarvan sal dra.

[67] The structure I will follow to do this is first to—

(a) set out my understanding of the substantive justification in AfriForum CC and the first judgment for the use of different models of language instruction at tertiary education level; and then
(b) translate the impact of that into the practical effect it has on different language speakers at Stellenbosch University and nationally.

On the basis of this analysis, I will then attempt to tease out the cost our jurisprudence on language choice under the Constitution exacts – and on whom the burden of carrying that cost will fall.

Die werkswyse sal wees om eers—

(a) my siening van die substantiewe regverdiging vir die gebruik van verskillende taalonderrig modelle op têrsiêre vlak in AfriForum CC en die eerste uitspraak uiteen te sit; en dan
(b) die impak daarvan op verskillende taalsprekers by die Universiteit van Stellenbosch en verder landswyd in praktiese terme te verduidelik.

Op grond van hierdie analise sal ek dan die gevolge van ons regspraak oor taalkeuse onder die Grondwet probeer ontrafel – en ondersoek doen oor wie dan die las daarvan sal dra.

Substantive justification / Substantiewe regsverdiging

[68] The underlying rationale for the outcome that both AfriForum CC and the first judgment articulate is that the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction leads to the exclusion or stigmatisation of black students. Because most Afrikaans-speaking students are proficient in English, but black students are not co-equally proficient in Afrikaans, policies that favour English as medium of instruction are judged normatively reasonable. This emerges from the context of the historical and current institutional privileges that white Afrikaans-speakers enjoyed and still enjoy.

Beide AfriForum CC en die eerste uitspraak druk die onderliggende rede vir die uitslag uit as een waar die gebruik van Afrikaans as onderrigmedium daartoe lei dat swart studente gestigmatiseer word.77 Omdat meeste Afrikaanssprekende studente Engels magtig is, maar swart studente nie eweneens Afrikaans magtig is nie, word ‘n taalbeleid wat voorkeur aan Engels as onderrigmedium verleen as normatief redelik geag.78 Dit volg uit die konteks van historiese en huidige institusionele voorregte wat wit Afrikaanssprekendes geniet het en steeds geniet.79

[69] This justification has an entailment. It exacts an inexorable price from any form of language instruction where Afrikaans is sought to be used.

Hierdie regverdiging het gevolge. Daar is ‘n onverbiddelike prys wat betaal moet word vir enige vorm van taalonderrig in Afrikaans.

[70] It is most obvious in the provision of single-medium Afrikaans instruction where that automatically results in the exclusion of black students. The same applies to dual medium instruction, where the need to have Afrikaans lectures translated into English for black students leads to their stigmatisation.

Die mees voor-die-hand-liggende voorbeeld is enkel-medium Afrikaanse onderrig wat outomaties uitsluiting van swart studente tot gevolg het. Dieselfde geld vir dubbel-medium Afrikaanse onderrig waar die vertaling van Afrikaanse lesings in Engels tot die stigmatisering van swart studente lei.

[71] That leaves parallel-medium instruction. Some may argue that the AfriForum CC finding that parallel-medium instruction inevitably results in segregation and, with it, indirect discrimination, finds application even where brown or coloured learners are segregated from black learners. The first judgment avoids this conclusion, but instead finds normative justification for deviating from full parallel-medium instruction on reasonable cost-related impracticability grounds.

Wat oorbly is parallel-medium onderrig. Dit kan geargumenteer word dat die AfriForum CC formulering – dat parallel medium onderrig onvermydelik segregasie meebring, en daarmee saam ook indirekte diskriminasie,80 ook geld waar bruin studente geskei word van swart studente.81 Die eerste uitspraak ontduik hierdie afleiding82 deur eerder normatiewe regverdiging vir die afwyking van volle parallel-medium onderrig te vind in redelike koste-gerigte praktiese uitvoerbaarheidsgronde.83

Practical effect / Praktiese effek

[72] In practical terms, this normative justification means that at Stellenbosch—

(a) all first-language English-speakers who so choose will receive instruction in English at both graduate and post-graduate level;
(b) all second-language English-speakers who also choose English will receive instruction in English at graduate and post-graduate level;
(c) first-language Afrikaans-speakers who choose Afrikaans will receive a diminished form of Afrikaans instruction, in varying degrees, and otherwise in English at graduate level. At post-graduate level they will receive instruction only in English; and
(d) first-language siXhosa-speakers who wish to choose isiXhosa will not be able to do so, but may be progressively assisted in that language as the 2016 Language Policy develops.

In praktiese terme beteken dit dat op Stellenbosch—

(a) alle eerstetaal Engels-sprekendes wat dit verkies, voor- en nagraadse onderrig in Engels sal ontvang;
(b) alle tweedetaal Engels-sprekendes wat dit verkies, voor- en nagraadse onderrig in Engels sal ontvang;
(c) eerstetaal Afrikaans-sprekendes wat Afrikaans verkies, sal voorgraads afgewaterde onderrig in Afrikaans in verskillende variasies ontvang. Andersins sal dit in Engels wees. Op nagraadse vlak sal hulle onderrig slegs in Engels ontvang; en
(d) eerstetaal siXhosasprekendes wat isiXhosa verkies sal nie die geleentheid gebied word om dit te doen nie, maar sal op progressiewe wyse bygestaan word in daardie taal soos die 2016 Beleid ontwikkel.

[73] First-language English-speakers are mostly white people; first language Afrikaans-speakers are mostly white and brown people; first language siXhosa speakers are mostly black people; and second language English speakers comprise black, brown and white people. In the Western Cape, first language Afrikaans-speakers constitute almost exactly half of the provincial population (49.6%) while first language siXhosa-speakers constitute one quarter (24.7%) and English speakers only one fifth (20.2%).

Eerstetaal Engelssprekendes is meestal witmense; eerstetaal Afrikaans-sprekendes is meestal wit- en bruinmense; eerstetaal siXhosa-sprekendes is meestal swartmense en tweedetaal Engelssprekendes sluit swart-, bruin- en witmense in.84 In die Wes-Kaap verteenwoordig eerstetaal Afrikaanssprekers amper helfte van die bevolking (49.6%), eerstetaal siXhosa-sprekendes amper ‘n kwart (24.7%) en eerstetaal Engelssprekendes slegs ‘n vyfde (20.2%).85

[74] This situation is replicated countrywide:

(a) All first-language English-speakers who choose English will receive instruction in English at both graduate and post-graduate level at any university in South Africa;
(b) All second-language English-speakers who also choose English will receive instruction in English at graduate and post-graduate level at any university in South Africa;
(c) First-language Afrikaans-speakers who choose Afrikaans will receive a diminished form of instruction at Stellenbosch University in Afrikaans and instruction in Afrikaans with English interpretation at the Potchefstroom campus of the North-West University; and
(d) First-language speakers of other indigenous African languages who wish to choose their language as a medium of instruction will not be able to do so at any university, except to the limited extent that these universities may offer assistance to them in their own language to supplement the main English language medium of instruction.

Hierdie stand van sake word landswyd herhaal:

(a) Alle eerstetaal Engels-sprekendes wat dit verkies, kan voor- en nagraadse onderrig in Engels ontvang by enige universiteit in Suid-Afrika;
(b) Alle tweedetaal Engels-sprekendes wat dit verkies, kan voor- en nagraadse onderrig in Engels ontvang by enige universiteit in Suid-Afrika;
(c) Eerstetaal Afrikaans-sprekendes wat Afrikaans verkies, sal by die Universiteit van Stellenbosch afgewaterde onderrig in Afrikaans ontvang en onderrig in Afrikaans met Engelse vertaling by die Potchefstroom kampus van die Noordwes Universiteit;86 en
(d) Eerstetaalsprekendes van enige ander inheemse Afrika-tale wat onderrig daarin verkies sal nie die geleentheid gebied word om dit by enige universiteit te doen nie, behalwe tot die beperkte omvang wat enige van hierdie universiteite hulp in hul eie taal mag aanbied om die Engelse onderrigmedium beter onder die knie te kry.

[75] One does not need international studies, of which there are many, to realise that this state of affairs entrenches English as the dominant language not only in tertiary education, but also, as we will see, from primary through secondary school to university. Opinions may differ on whether this is a good or bad thing, but it seems strange for this Court, the ultimate protector of minority language rights under the Constitution, to give its blessing to this result.

Mens benodig nie internasionale studies nie, waarvan daar vele is,87 om te besef dat hierdie stand van sake Engels as dominante taal bevestig, nie net op têrsiêre vlak nie, maar, soos ons sal sien, ook vanaf laerskool na hoërskool tot by universiteit. Menings mag wissel oor die wysheid hiervan, maar dit is seer eienaardig dat hierdie Hof, die uiteindelike bewaker van minderheidstaalregte ingevolge die Grondwet, sy goedkeuring daaraan gee.

Burdens and benefits / Laste en voordele

[76] Cameron J speaks of the “racial edge” to all of this in relation to white Afrikaans speakers. But the “racial edge” has some further, and rather surprising, consequences too. The first is that the other main beneficiaries – and bearers – of our colonial and apartheid past, white English-speakers, come out tops (and thus linguistically unscathed) as far as choice of language of instruction is concerned. The second is that English second-language speakers who have the best chance of becoming academically proficient in English at tertiary level are those who can afford to attend private, independent English schools or previously privileged public schools. These “newly” educationally privileged English second-language-speakers include black, white and brown people whose mother tongue is any of the other official languages, including Afrikaans.

Cameron R praat van die rasse-byt (“racial edge”) wat hierdie het met betrekking tot wit Afrikaans-sprekendes.88 Hierdie rasse-aspek het egter ook ander, soms verrassende, gevolge. Die eerste is dat die ander mede-bevoorregtes en -draers van ons koloniale en apartheidsgeskiedenis, wit Engelssprekendes, heelhuids daarvan afkom (met hul taalregte ongeskaad) wat die uitoefening van taalonderrigkeuse betref. Die tweede is dat diegene wat die beste kans staan om akademies in Engels as ‘n tweede taal oor die weg te kom, juis persone sal wees wat dit kan bekostig om skoolonderrig te ontvang by onafhanklike Engelse privaatskole of voorheen bevoorregte openbare skole.89 Hierdie ‘nuut’ opvoedkundig bevoorregte Engelse tweedetaalsprekers sluit swart-, wit- en bruinmense in wie se moedertaal enige van die ander amptelike tale, Afrikaans inkluis, is.90

[77] The third, and most troubling, consequence is that those mainly black and brown people from the lowest socio-economic rung who attend under-resourced and poorly staffed schools in rural and marginalised urban communities, will suffer most from effectively having their language of instruction being limited to English. Not only do they receive inadequate mother-tongue education when they start their education, but the education that they receive in English is also often of a poor quality.

Die derde, mees kommerwekkende, gevolg is vir die hoofsaaklik swart en bruin mense op die laagste sosio-ekonomiese skaal van ons samelewing. Hulle woon die swakste toegeruste skole by, beide in befondsing en personeel, in die landelike en stedelik gemarginaliseerde gemeenskappe en word die meeste benadeel deur slegs Engels as hul keuse van onderrig. Hulle ontvang onvoldoende moeder-taalonderrig wanneer hulle hul opvoeding begin en die Engelse onderrig is ook dikwels van ‘n swak gehalte.91

[78] The evidence before us shows that Afrikaans is the home language of a significant proportion of brown people in the Western Cape (and also the Northern Cape). It also shows that they are predominantly working-class people and that many of them are not proficient in English. Statistically they are the smallest of all population groups proceeding to tertiary education. Poverty means that it is more difficult for them than for most even to aspire to tertiary education. And if they do get that far, they have only one university to go to in the Western Cape where Afrikaans may be chosen as a medium of instruction. Now, when they arrive at Stellenbosch, they will find that their choice of medium of instruction is not as comprehensive as those more privileged students who choose English. The grim message that seems to be sent to this segment of extremely marginalised brown people, is that, if they are be accommodated, they need to grow out of poverty and learn English fast.

Volgens die getuienis op rekord is Afrikaans die moedertaal van ‘n beduidende gedeelte van bruinmense in die Wes-Kaap (asook in die Noord-Kaap). Dit toon ook aan dat hulle hoofsaaklik van die werkersklas afkomstig is en dat baie van hulle nie Engels magtig of vlot daarin is nie. Statisties gesproke is hulle die bevolkingsgroep met die kleinste verteenwoordiging in têrsiêre opvoeding.92 Armoede beteken dat dit vir hulle moeiliker is om bloot net te aspireer na têrsiêre onderrig as vir meeste andere. As hulle ooit so ver sou kom, is daar net een universiteit in die Wes-Kaap waar Afrikaans nog gekies kan word as medium van onderrig.93 Wanneer hulle nou daar sou aankom, sal hulle vind dat hul keuse van Afrikaans as medium van onderrig nie so omvattend is as die meer bevooregte student wat Engels kies nie. Die bitter waarheid is dat hul armoede en agterstand in Engels hulle selfs slegter af laat.

[79] There is something deeply disturbing and wrong about this. What are the comparative numbers of this segment of brown people in contradistinction to those black Africans who felt or were excluded by the application of dual medium instruction at Stellenbosch University? The evidence on record is not clear. Nor was this at the centre of Gelyke Kanse’s constitutional challenge to the 2016 Language Policy. But common sense inference indicates that it is a significant problem, and not only for the people concerned, but for all marginalised and poor people whose home language is not English.

Dit is ’n diep ontstellende onreg. Wat is die vergelykende hoeveelheid mense in hierdie groep bruinmense teenoor daardie swartmense wat uitgesluit was, of uitgesluit gevoel het, deur die toepassing van dubbel-medium onderrig by Stellenbosch? Die prentjie is nie duidelik op die stukke nie. Dit was ook nie die middelpunt van Gelyke Kanse se grondwetlike aanval op die 2016 Beleid nie. Maar gesonde verstand dui aan dit is ‘n wesenlike probleem, nie net vir die betrokke persone nie, maar vir alle gemarginaliseerde en arm mense met ‘n moeder- of huistaal wat nie Engels is nie.

[80] Nor is this only a local problem. It is an international one, mainly with regard to the dominance of English, but also in relation to other colonial languages like French, Spanish and Portuguese. It is also a very specific post-colonial problem in Africa, not only South Africa. Commenting on the alarming rate of illiteracy in various African countries, a recent study noted:

“In so-called Anglophone, Francophone, and Lusophone Africa, the prominence given to English, French and Portuguese respectively has rendered African languages instrumentally virtually valueless. What is at issue . . . is whether it can be deemed appropriate and economically justifiable to devote so many resources to education through the medium of a foreign language such as English, for instance, especially since centuries of experimentation with Western education has not resulted in mass literacy development in the African continent.”

Dit is ook nie bloot ‘n plaaslike probleem nie. Dit is ‘n internasionale probleem, hoofsaaklik gespits op die dominansie van Engels, maar ook met betreeking tot ander koloniale tale soos Frans, Spaans en Portugees.94 Voorts is dit ook ‘n besondere post-koloniale probleem in Afrika,95 nie slegs in Suid-Afrika nie. In ‘n onlangse studie oor die kommerwekkende graad van ongeskooldheid in verskeie Afrika lande merk die skrywer op:

“In so-called Anglophone, Francophone, and Lusophone Africa, the prominence given to English, French and Portuguese respectively has rendered African languages instrumentally virtually valueless. What is at issue . . . is whether it can be deemed appropriate and economically justifiable to devote so many resources to education through the medium of a foreign language such as English, for instance, especially since centuries of experimentation with Western education has not resulted in mass literacy development in the African continent.”96

[81] Studies have shown that mother-tongue-based education, generally and in the more particular form of mother-tongue-based multilingual education, develops the necessary skills of children for cognitive language proficiency and interpersonal communicative skills better than when they have to learn these in a language not known to them.

Studies toon aan dat die noodsaaklike vaardighede vir kognitiewe taalkundigheid en interpersoonlike kommunikasie beter ontwikkel onder moedertaalonderrig, in die algemeen en in die besondere vorm van moedertaal gebaseerde multi-taal onderrig.97

[82] The scientific literature suggests that, for mother-tongue-based multilingual education to be effective, it needs at least six years of teaching in the primary language, together with the second language as a subject to be learned in order for an eventual transition to tuition in that second language in some subjects. But that is not the norm in Africa nor in our southern part of it. Why not?

Wetenskaplike literatuur toon aan dat effektiewe moedertaal gebaseerde multi-taal onderrig minstens ses jaar se onderrig in die moedertaal verg, tesame met die tweede taal as die vak wat aangeleer moet word vir die moontlike oorskakeling daarna vir sekere akademiese vakrigtings.98 Dit is egter nie die norm in Afrika nie en ook nie in ons suidelike deel daarvan nie.99 Hoekom nie?

[83] Some ascribe it to elitism:

“Often, although individuals vote for the promotion of a national language . . . in their personal lives they act in a way that subverts that vote. In many cases, they enrol their children in schools where access to the former colonial language is ensured and, at the same time, demand equal favour for their vernacular. In the sardonic words of the Tunisian general secretary of secondary public education, ‘We do not cease to repeat ‘Arabization, Arabization,’ all the while sending our children to the [French private school system].”

And:

“[T]he behaviour of the elite speaks more loudly than their tiresome demonstrations of the alleged cognitive and intellectual benefits of early mother-tongue education. The duplicity of language planners has caused the elite who are not involved in the language industry to be sceptical, ambivalent, apathetic, or even hostile to the use of African languages in education. This, in turn, has hardened the resolve of parents against mother-tongue education in many French-speaking countries.”

Sommige skryf dit toe aan elitisme:

“Often, although individuals vote for the promotion of a national language . . . in their personal lives they act in a way that subverts that vote. In many cases, they enrol their children in schools where access to the former colonial language is ensured and, at the same time, demand equal favour for their vernacular. In the sardonic words of the Tunisian general secretary of secondary public education, ‘We do not cease to repeat ‘Arabization, Arabization,’ all the while sending our children to the [French private school system].”100

En:

“[T]he behaviour of the elite speaks more loudly than their tiresome demonstrations of the alleged cognitive and intellectual benefits of early mother tongue education. The duplicity of language planners has caused the elite who are not involved in the language industry to be sceptical, ambivalent, apathetic, or even hostile to the use of African languages in education. This, in turn, has hardened the resolve of parents against mother tongue education in many French-speaking countries.”101

[84] In South Africa, there is a further reason for the turn away from mother tongue education. The apartheid system “used promotion of the mother-tongue principle, specifically the advancement of the indigenous languages as subject and medium of instruction, as a central instrument of the policy of divide and rule”. And the 1976 Soweto school uprisings still resonate deeply in our national psyche.

In Suid-Afrika is daar ‘n verdere rede om die rug te draai op moedertaalonderrig. Die apartheidstelsel “used promotion of the mother tongue principle, specifically the advancement of the indigenous languages as subject and medium of instruction, as a central instrument of the policy of divide and rule”.102 En die 1976 Soweto skoolopstande raak steeds diep aan ons nasionale bewussyn.

[85] So to change the perception of mother tongue education in this country to one cleansed of the stigma of apartheid will be a difficult task. But if we are ever to get past name-calling, and, indeed, past the past, one must become able to assess current inequalities anew. There is a dire inequality in the quality of education received by less resourced and marginalised people in rural areas and less resourced urban townships. Many contend that initial lengthier mother tongue multilingual education would leave them better off, but that this is denied them. They are thus obliged to make do with English language instruction from a very early stage in their education.

Om ontslae te raak van die stigma van apartheid in die persepsie van moedertaalonderrig in ons land sal ‘n gedugte taak wees. Maar as ons ooit verby moddergooi wil kom, inderdaad verby ons verlede wil kom, is dit noodsaaklik om huidige ongelykhede met nuwe oë te bekyk. Daar is ‘n gruwelike ongelykheid in die graad van opvoeding wat onderbefondse en uitgeslote mense in landelike en minder gegoede stedelike woonbuurte ontvang. Daar is baie wat aanvoer dat langer aanvanklike moedertaalonderrig hul benarde posisie sal verbeter, maar dit is steeds hul nie beskore nie.103 Hulle moet dus genoeë daarmee neem om in Engels taalonderrig te ontvang vanaf ‘n uiters vroeë stadium.

[86] It is a hard and uncomfortable truth, but the English education young people in this position receive is generally of a lower standard than what more privileged children in private high-fee schools and better-resourced urban public schools receive. And because of their marginalisation they carry less political clout to alleviate their situation. So the cycle of marginalisation continues, and is reinforced. For them, the “choice” of English as medium of instruction at all levels, from primary to tertiary education, is not free but forced and the outcome bleak. Diminishing the Afrikaans offering at one of the two universities that still provides it will be cold comfort.

Dit is ‘n harde en ongenaakbare werklikheid, maar die Engelse opvoeding wat jong kinders in hierdie posisie ontvang is in die algemeen van ‘n swakker gehalte as wat meer bevoorregte kinders in onafhanklike privaatskole en beter toegeruste stedelike openbare skole ontvang.104 En as gevolg van hul uitsluiting verminder hul direkte politieke mag om die toedrag van sake te verander. So gaan die siklus van marginalisering dus voort en word dit al hoe dieper gevestig. Vir hulle is die ‘keuse’ van Engels as medium van onderrig nie vrywillig nie, maar geforseerd, en die vooruitsigte skraal. Verskraling van die Afrikaanse aanbieding by een van die twee universiteite waar dit nog aangebied word, sal bitter min vir hulle help.

[87] What is lost when one’s language is lost? Let others speak.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o:

“Language as communication and as culture are then products of each other. Communication creates culture: culture is a means of communication. Language carries culture, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values by which we come to perceive ourselves and our place in the world. How people perceive themselves and affects how they look at their culture, at their places politics and at the social production of wealth, at their entire relationship to nature and to other beings. Language is thus inseparable from ourselves as a community of human beings with a specific form and character, a specific history, a specific relationship to the world.”

Breyten Breytenbach:

“Taal is mens en mens is taal. Afrikaans is die lewende en veranderende en andersmakende uitvloeisel van uiteenlopende en by tye botsende geskiedenisse. Hierdie diverse oorspronge gekenmerk deur aanpassing, verowering, onderdrukking, oorlewing, weerstand en omvorming – afkomstig uit Europese dialekte, Maleis, Portugees, seemanstaal, Khoi tale, Arabiese Afrikaans, die Koran en die Bybel, die howe en kerke en kombuise en wingerde en fabrieke – het gemaak dat Afrikaans ‘n unieke hibridisering vergestalt as Kreoolse taal wat by uitstek die verwoording is van die komplekse wêreld waarin ons beweeg.”

Wat verloor ons as ‘n taal vergaan? Laat andere praat.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o:

“Language as communication and as culture are then products of each other. Communication creates culture: culture is a means of communication. Language carries culture, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values by which we come to perceive ourselves and our place in the world. How people perceive themselves and affects how they look at their culture, at their places politics and at the social production of wealth, at their entire relationship to nature and to other beings. Language is thus inseparable from ourselves as a community of human beings with a specific form and character, a specific history, a specific relationship to the world.”105

Breyten Breytenbach:

“Taal is mens en mens is taal. Afrikaans is die lewende en veranderende en andersmakende uitvloeisel van uiteenlopende en by tye botsende geskiedenisse. Hierdie diverse oorspronge gekenmerk deur aanpassing, verowering, onderdrukking, oorlewing, weerstand en omvorming – afkomstig uit Europese dialekte, Maleis, Portugees, seemanstaal, Khoi tale, Arabiese Afrikaans, die Koran en die Bybel, die howe en kerke en kombuise en wingerde en fabrieke – het gemaak dat Afrikaans ‘n unieke hibridisering vergestalt as Kreoolse taal wat by uitstek die verwoording is van die komplekse wêreld waarin ons beweeg.”106

[88] Without your own language, culture is lost, a sense of self is lost. And once that happens, diversity is lost. We will lose the belief set out in the Preamble of the Constitution “that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity”.

Sonder ‘n eie taal is deel van ons kultuur verlore, ons gewaarwording van onsself vernietig. En as dit gebeur, word diversiteit verloor. Ons verloor dan die geloof verwoord in die aanhef tot die Grondwet dat Suid-Afrika aan almal wat hier leef behoort, verenig in ons diversiteit.

[89] It really is not obscure. It is about being comfortable in one’s own skin. Anywhere and everywhere. Amongst your family and friends, talking the language you love. Going to a shop and expecting courtesy if you hope to be served in your language. And if that cannot be, to be courteous and friendly in explaining why you wanted it in the first place. And if someone else talks to you in a language with which you are unfamiliar, to apologise and say you’ll try to do better next time.

Dit is regtig eenvoudig. Dis om gemaklik met jou eie self te wees. Enige plek en orals. Om tussen familie en vriende die taal te praat wat ons liefhet. Om winkel toe te gaan en beskaafdheid te verwag as jy hoop om in jou taal bedien te word. En as dit nie moontlik is nie, om beskaafd en vriendelik te verduidelik waarom jy daarvoor gehoop het. En as iemand met jou praat in ‘n taal praat wat jy nie magtig is nie, om verskoning te maak en te sê jy hoop om volgende keer beter te kan doen.

[90] But also, and as importantly, in the public life of our country, there should be no need to apologise or feel embarrassed when you speak or write in your own language, an official language of our country. All of us must learn to do it in a way that minimises the exclusion of others, but it should not mean that we are silenced from speaking it, writing, using it, as long as we make sure, to the best of our abilities, that we include others when we do so. Otherwise it becomes an exercise of power.

Net so belangrik, ook so in die openbare lewe van ons land. Daar behoort geen rede te wees vir enigeen om verskoning te maak of ongemaklik te voel as jy praat of skryf in jou eie taal, ‘n amptelike taal van ons land, nie. Ons moet almal leer om dit te doen op ‘n manier wat die uitsluiting van andere verminder, maar dit beteken nie ons word die swye in ons praat, ons skrywe, ons gebruik daarvan, opgelê nie. Solank ons seker maak, so goed as wat ons kan, dat ons nie andere uitsluit wanneer ons dit doen nie. Want dan word dit uitoefening van mag.107

[91] Successful mother-tongue or vernacular language education is not easily attained, but it can be done. It has been done in some countries in Asia, Europe and in North America in Canada. In Africa, the support of Amharic in Ethiopia, kiSwahili in Tanzania and Somali in Somalia count as examples, but, deeply ironically, the “clear cut and strongest case of successful vernacular language education in Africa is Afrikaans in South Africa, under the apartheid regime.” This came about from the language loyalty of its speakers and from the massive political and material support it received from the state. That translated into its increased use in the economy and other public institutions, including universities. It became one of the few smaller world languages to be developed and then used as an academic language.

Suksesvolle moeder- of huistaal opvoeding en onderrig kan gedoen word. Lande in Asië, Europa en in Kanada in Noord-Amerika het dit bewys.108 Die ondersteuning van Amharies in Ethiopië, kiSwahili in Tanzanië en Somalies in Somalië is toonbeelde daarvan in Afrika. Ironies egter, is die “clear-cut and strongest case of successful vernacular language education in Africa . . . Afrikaans in South Africa, under the apartheid regime.”109 Faktore wat daartoe gelei het was die lojaliteit van die taal se sprekers en massiewe politiese en materiële staatshulp.110 Dit is omskep in die toenemende gebruik daarvan in die ekonomie en ander openbare instellings, insluitende universiteite. Dit is een van die min kleiner wêreldtale wat ontwikkel het tot ‘n erkende akademiese taal.

[92] An example is law. Textbooks were written in Afrikaans by Afrikaans legal academics that played an important part in the development of the law. Before 1947, only a few Appellate Division judgments were written in Afrikaans. Between 1947 to 1994 a greater number of judgments were written in Afrikaans particularly if it was the language of the parties. Since 1994, progressively fewer judgments have been written in Afrikaans. In this Court, three judgments have been written in Afrikaans and simultaneously translated into English. Maybe this one will be the last. That will be a sad ending and I hope it does not happen.

‘n Voorbeeld daarvan is Afrikaans se ontwikkeling as ’n regstaal. Handboeke is in Afrikaans dear Afrikaaanse akademici geskryf, met ‘n groot en belangrike invloed op die ontwikkeling van ons reg.111 Voor 1947 is slegs ‘n paar Appèlhof uitsprake in Afrikaans geskryf.112 Vanaf 1947 tot 1994 is veel meer uitsprake in Afrikaans geskryf, veral waar dit die litigante se moedertaal was.113 Sedert 1994 al hoe minder. In hierdie Hof is drie gepubliseerde uitsprake in Afrikaans geskryf en terselfdertyd in Engels vertaal.114 Miskien is hierdie die laaste een. Dit sal ‘n kwade dag wees. Ek hoop dit sal nie gebeur nie.

[93] As far as I am aware, not a single judgment of this Court has been written in any of the other official indigenous African languages.

Sover ek weet is daar nog nie ‘n uitspraak in enige van die ander inheemse Afrika tale in hierdie Hof geskryf nie.

[94] The point of this is that the Constitution enables each one of us to be proud of our language. We need not destroy one language to advance others. Yes, that means, for white Afrikaans-speakers, that we must acknowledge and be sensitive to the fact that Afrikaans was used as a means of power and oppression before we high-handedly complain of how we are treated now. But that does not disqualify us, and certainly not brown and black Afrikaans-speakers, from being proud of our language. A long way lies ahead to gain widespread acceptance of Afrikaans, as the verbalisation, or embodiment, of the complex world we live in (“die verwoording . . . van die komplekse wêreld waarin ons beweeg”), but it is already starting to happen.

Die Grondwet bemagtig elkeen van ons om trots te wees op ons taal. Ons hoef nie een taal te vernietig om die ander te bevorder nie. Dit beteken wel ja, vir wit Afrikaanssprekendes, dat ons sensitief moet handel met die feit dat Afrikaans as magsintrument in onderdrukking gebruik is. Dit moet erken word voordat ons te gou begin kla oor hoe ons nou behandel word. Maar dit keer nie dat ons, en beslis nie bruin en swart Afrikaanssprekendes, nie mag trots wees op ons taal nie. Daar lê ‘n lang pad voor voordat wye aanvaarding gevind sal word dat Afrikaans “die verwoording is van die komplekse wêreld waarin ons beweeg”,115 maar dit begin reeds gebeur.

[95] And perhaps more importantly, it means that more assertion by our fellow South Africans whose home languages are the other indigenous, African, languages should be welcomed when they assert their own right under the Constitution to use their languages anywhere and everywhere. If that causes white people who have never made the effort to understand any of those languages uncomfortable, that reflects on their own poverty. If it causes indigenous African language-speakers increasingly to assert the inherent value of their own, the Constitution promises its support.

Dit beteken ook, en miskien meer belangriker, dat ons mede Suid-Afrikaners wie se huistale die ander inheemse Afrika tale is, hul eie reg onder die Grondwet meer behoort te gebruik. Waar ookal, in enige plek en orals. As dit wit mense wat nooit ‘n poging aangewend het om enige van daardie tale te verstaan nie ongemaklik maak, is dit hulle verlies. As dit ander inheemse Afrika-taalsprekers sal aanmoedig om die inherente waarde van hul eie taal te bevorder, is dit ook ons Grondwet se belofte.

[96] It is often stated that without legal back-up minority languages will wither away and die. But that need not be inevitable. Imagine a Stellenbosch University where the current emotional and often odious public oppositional discourse is displaced. Imagine a Stellenbosch University where there is a community working together to ensure that the university alumni and other sympathetic supporters raise awareness of the plight of less-resourced siXhosa- and black and brown Afrikaans-speaking communities that need access to its academic excellence. And then do something “reasonably practical” about it, by raising funds for the progressive institutionalisation of isiXhosa, Afrikaans or English as their choice of medium of instruction on an equal basis.

Dit word dikwels beweer dat sonder geregtelike ondersteuning minder-heidstale uiteindelik sal verdwyn.116 Maar dit behoort nie onvermydelik so te wees nie. Laat die verbeelding ‘n oomblik loop. Verbeel ’n Stellenbosch waar die huidige emosionele en dikwels onsmaaklike openbare strydige debat verplaas word deur ‘n gemeenskap wat saamwerk. Alumni en ander welwillendes kom bymekaar om ’n gewaarwording aan te wakker wat klem lê op die nood van minder toegeruste siXhosa- en bruin en swart Afrikaanssprekende gemeenskappe om toegang te kry tot die universiteit se akademiese uitnemendheid. En dat iets “redelik prakties” daaromtrent gedoen word, naamlik befondsing word ge-inisieer om die progressiewe institusionalisering van isiXhosa, Afrikaans en Engels as gelyke taalkeuses by die universiteit te verwesenlik.117

[97] And imagine a Constitutional Court where judgments are written not exclusively in English, but in a variety of the indigenous official languages, with simultaneous translations in English in the column next to it, as in the Canadian law reports. Would that not be an occasion for joyous celebration at first, before we embrace it, mundanely, as the accepted norm?

Verbeel ‘n Grondwetlike Hof waar uitsprake nie uitsluitlik in Engels geskryf word nie, maar in ‘n verskeidenheid van ander inheemse tale, met gelyktydige vertalings in Engels in die aangrensende kolom, soos in die Kanadese hofverslae. ’n Geleentheid vir aanvanklike feesviering, voordat ons dit later doodgewoon aanvaar as die norm.

[98] Is that “reasonably impractical”? I do not think so. To say it inevitably is, will be to give up on part of our constitutional dream. We need not let it happen.

Is dit “redelik onprakties”? Ek dink nie so nie. Om te aanvaar dit is onvermydelik so is om deel van ons Grondwetlike droom prys te gee. Ons hoef dit nie te laat gebeur nie.