PANSALB history


The Pan South African Language Board is established in terms of the Pan South African Language Board Act 59 of 1995  amended as PANSALB Amendment  Act of 1999. The Board was established according to the
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa ( Act 106 of 1996) in order to:

(a) promote, and create conditions for the development and use of official languages v the khoe and San languages v sign language

(b) promote and ensure respect for all languages commonly used by communities in South Africa, including German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Portuguese, Tamil, Telegu, and Urdu and;   Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, and other languages used for religious purposes in South Africa


PanSALB or the Pan South African Language Board was established by parliament (Act 59 of 1995, amended by Act 10 of 1999) to:

  • Develop the 11 official langauages, and
  • Promote multilingualism in South Africa
  • The constitution makes reference to the establishment of PanSALB in Section 6 when describing language rights.
    The PanSALB Act mandates that it initiate studies and research aimed at promoting and creating conditions for the development of all 11 official languages, plus the Khoe, San and South African sign language

 It is worth saying that the Board approaches its language development strategies through the following focus areas:

  • Status Language Planning
  • Language in Education
  • Translation and Interpreting
  • Lexicography, Terminology and Place names
  • Development of Literature and Previously Marginalised Languages
  • Language Rights and Mediation
  • Research

PanSALB is mandated by law to investigate complaints about language rights violations from any individual, organisation or institution.

PanSALB conducts hearings at which complainants and respondents are present, and depending on its findings may recommend steps to be taken by the department or institution concerned.

In May 2004, PanSALB launched a campaign to raise the public's awareness of their right to be served in their own language at government institutions.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign in Pretoria, PanSALB chief executive Cynthia Marivate said the public should complain to PanSALB if public servants refused to serve them in their language.

"This is not only limited to written information", Marivate said. "Even verbal information should be communicated through the language citizens best understand." She said it was the responsibility of government to get interpreters of all official languages at its key delivery service points.

Language policy and law
PanSALB worked closely with the Department of Arts and Culture on its national policy for language use in government in higher education, launched in 2003, as well as on the South African Languages Bill and a number of initiatives to ensure that South Africa has the human resources needed to implement the Bill when it becomes law. These initiatives, announced in March 2004, include a government bursary scheme for postgraduate studies in language, interpreting and translation, and the setting up of language research and development centres to focus on nine of SA's 11 indigenous languages: seSotho sa Lebowa, seSotho, seTswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.


The Powers and Functions of the Board, as stipulated in PANSALB Act no 59, 1999 and PANSALB Amendment Act, 1999, are as follows:


The Board shall in the manner prescribed  by the Board by notice in the Gazette and the Provincial Gazette establish:

(a) a provincial  language committee in each province to advise it  on any language matter in or affecting any province or any part thereof where no such  provincial committee exists or where an existing provincial  language  committee has jurisdiction  only with respect to the official languages of a particular province: Provided that if a provincial language committee exists in a particular  province, and such  a committee is, in the view of  the Board sufficiently
representative  of the languages used in the province, that committee shall be deemed to have been established  in terms  of this subsection for as long as it remains representative.

(b) a national language body  to advise it on any  particular language, sign language or augmentative and alternative
communication, in the case where no such language body exists or where an existing language body does not serve its purpose: Provided that if such a body exists, it shall be deemed  to have been established in terms  of this subsection.

(c) [national lexicographic] units to operate as companies limited by guarantee under section 21 of the Companies Act, 1973 (Act No. 61 of 1973) and shall allocate funds  to the units  for the fulfillment  of their functions:  Provided that the memorandum  and articles of association of such units shall include the following principles:

(i) The unit is accountable to the Board for the moneys allocated  to it. (ii) The unit shall abide by the policies of the Board (iii) The unit shall adhere to the principles of promoting language development.


The Board shall:

(a) make recommendations with regard to any proposed or existing legislation, practice and policy dealing directly or indirectly with language matters at any level of government, and with regard to any proposed amendments to or the repeal or replacement of such legislation, practice and policy.

(b) make recommendations  to organs of state at all levels of government where  it considers such action advisable for the adoption of measures aimed at the promotion of multilingualism within  the framework of the Constitution

(c) advise on the  co-ordination of language planning in South Africa


The Board shall actively  promote an awareness of multilingualism as a national resource.


The Board shall actively promote the development of previously marginalised languages


The Board shall:

(a) initiate studies and research aimed at promoting and creating conditions for the development  and use  of:

(i) all the official languages of the Republic
(ii) the Khoe and San  languages; and
(iii) South African Sign Language

(b) initiate studies and research aimed at :

(i) the development  of the previously   marginalised languages in South  Africa;
(ii) the non-diminution of rights relating to language and the status of languages existing as at 27 April 1994
(iii) the promotion of multilingualism in South Africa
(iv) the promotion of the utilisation of South Africa's language resources; and
(v) the prevention  of the use of any language   for the purposes of exploitation, domination or division.


The Board  shall:

(a) render the necessary assistance free of charge for the  purposes of submitting a complaint and where necessary shall assist the complainants  with the requirements of submitting a complaint (b) [may on its own initiative and] shall on receipt  of  a written complaint investigate the alleged violation of any language right, language policy or language practice

[NB: The Board may on its own initiative investigate/alleged/ language rights violations; and may subpoena any person, body or state organ to appear before it to give evidence and produce any relevant  records or documents]


The  Board shall:

(a) facilitate co-operation with  language planning agencies outside South Africa (b) strive to promote close so-operation between itself and any organ of state, person,  body of persons or institution involved  in the development and promotion of language; (c) prior to making or publishing any report, findings, point of view, advice or
recommendation, obtain the advice of-

(i) the provincial language committee concerned established under section 8(8)(a) (ii) any organ of state  in respect  of  a matter impacting  directly  or indirectly on any language, language policy or language practice followed, implemented or proposed by or in such organ of state (iii) any language body established under section 8(8)(b); or (iv) any person , group, language body or institution involved in or having an interest in the promotion of the official South African languages by inviting  submissions by means of  a notice to this effect in the Gazette and the Provincial Gazette

[NB: The committee, organ of state or language body referred to above shall be compelled to give advice requested by the Board]


The Board may:

(a) request any organ of state   to supply it with  information  on any legislative executive or administrative measures adopted by it relating to language policy and language practice (b) advise any organ of state on the implementation  of any proposed or existing legislation, policy and practice dealing directly or indirectly with language matters (c) monitor the observance  of any advice given in terms of paragraph (b) (d) in respect of equitable wide-spread language facilitation services, issue directives on and monitor

(i) applicable standards determined by the Board for such services and
(ii) the rendering of such services.

(e) having due regard  to the provisions and principles of the Constitution relating directly or indirectly to language matters in general:

(i) monitor the observance of the constitutional provisions regarding the use of language (ii) monitor the contents and observance of any existing and new legislation, practice and policy dealing directly or indirectly with language matters at any level of government (iii) assist with and monitor the formulation of programmes and policies aimedat fostering the equal use of  and respect for the official languages, while taking steps to ensure that communities using those languages have the opportunity to use their respective languages in appropriate circumstances (iv) establish, compile and maintain databases including, but not limited to databases of: (aa)  all legislative  measures (including provisions in the Constitution) dealing with language matters: and (bb)  every policy and practice of any institution or organ of state dealing directly or indirectly  with language matters

(f)  commission  any person  or body of persons or institution  to conduct research and prepare publications on its behalf and may for this purpose make resources available to any such person or body or persons or institution (g) summon any person  to give evidence before it, or to produce any official document or any such other information or object as may be necessary for the performance of the Board's functions.

(h) advise government to provide individuals  or groups who are adversely affected by gross violations of language rights with financial and other support. (i) In furtherance of its objects and for the purpose of the exercise of its powers and performance of its functions:
(i)  make rules and issue notices
(ii)  publish such rules and notices in the Gazette and in the Provincial Gazette
(j)  consult and work closely with any person or body of persons who has special  knowledge of  and  experience in the language problems of South Africa, or who is  in any way involved in the development and promotion of language


Another of PanSALB's focus areas is that of lexicography and terminology development. Nine National Lexicography Units were registered in 2001, their task being to compile monolingual explanatory dictionaries and other products to help with language development. The Afrikaans, English, isiZulu, and isiXhosa units have published a number of volumes of their monolingual dictionaries. The Tshivenda Lexicography Unit, based at the University of Venda, launched the world's first Tshivenda dictionary in July 2004, and said it expected to publish the final draft in 2006 or 2007. The lexicography units are based at tertiary institutions throughout South Africa. Each unit is managed by a board of directors and registered as a Section 21 (not-for-profit) company, which allows the unit autonomy to raise funds to carry on its work.