PanSALB calls for a South African Languages Act

with punitive measures

On 17-18 January 2012, The Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture held public hearings on the government’s proposed SA Languages Bill which have revealed that most participants agreed that the bill as it stood was inadequate.

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) also added its voice in this ground breaking piece of legislation. In its current form we believe the Bill will fall short in addressing our country’s inequitable language use.

Our first point of departure was that the bill is unlikely to give effect to the government’s constitutional obligation. Government is expected to “take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of (indigenous languages)” and to ensure all 11 official languages “enjoy parity of esteem and… (are) treated equitably”

Most importantly, the bill lacks the necessary mechanism to deal with language rights violators and fails to offer remedies to the victims of such violations.

Our submission is based on best international practices in many countries with an equitable language dispensation. A national language act is regarded as one of the core legislative mechanisms to regulate the use of the official languages. Such a language act often comprises the pre-eminent legal mechanism aimed at bringing about a form of official language equity.