Minorities have very little to celebrate on Heritage Day
Tammy Petersen, News24
Cape Town - Minorities have very little to celebrate on Heritage Day 21 years after the establishment of a new constitutional democracy, the FW De Klerk Foundation has said.
“The vision of a vibrant multi-cultural society with a mosaic of cultures and languages coexisting harmoniously in mutual toleration and respect has not been realised,” said the foundation’s executive director Dave Steward in a statement.
The Constitution makes full provision for this and recognises 11 national languages and “accords them parity of esteem”.
“It enjoins the state to develop our indigenous languages and requires government to be conducted in at least two languages at national and provincial level. It recognises the right of everyone to practise their cultures and use their languages.”
But the foundation pointed out that English is the single official language of the country.
“Little or nothing has so far resulted from the Use of Official Languages Act that was adopted in 2012 at the insistence of the courts. The Act requires all government departments and entities to adopt language policies that will give effect to the language requirements in the Constitution - but little or nothing appears to have happened in practice.”
The right to education in a language of choice is also being undermined, the organisation said.
“The few universities that still provide tuition in Afrikaans at undergraduate level are under enormous pressure to increase their English language offering - despite the fact that at 22 of our 26 universities English is the sole language of tuition.
“Single-medium Afrikaans schools are also under growing pressure to provide classes in English. This is despite the fact that a majority of Afrikaans-speakers are not white and that Afrikaans single-medium schools admit children on a non-racial basis.”
President Jacob Zuma and government ministers also frequently attack the heritage and history of minority communities, it said.
“President Zuma recently blamed all the problems of the country on the arrival in South Africa of Jan van Riebeeck. Statues of historic leaders from minority communities are daubed with paint and excrement. White South Africans are increasingly referred to as ‘colonialists’ - as though they are alien interlopers in their own country.”
The Constitution recognises as a foundational value the right to human dignity which is "inextricably interlinked with the cultural, language and religious identities of citizens", the foundation said.