- Afrikaans minority rights group, Afriforum, is angry about the decision last week by the constitutional court to uphold an earlier High Court ruling regarding the language policy at a Free State university
- They claim if proves minorities were mislead during the 1994 negotiations leading up to a government of national unity
- AfriForum claims it was misled to believe minority language rights would be protected in a new dispensation.
In a majority ruling in the Constitutional Court on Friday morning, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng turned down AfriForum's prayers for leave to appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling from March.
The ruling they wanted to appeal was the appeal court’s ruling that a High Court order which said the University's policy decision to have the institution use Afrikaans as the only language of instruction was unlawful.
Afrikaans is South Africa's third most common language, with an estimated seven million speakers. AfriForum considers itself a minority rights group working to protect the rights of Afrikaans speakers in particular.
Briefly.co.za reported last week on the Constitutional Court ruling on Friday morning, which had the final say over the University of the Free State's (UFS) English-only language policy and declared it lawful.
In a media statement, AfriForum's deputy CEO Alana Bailey expressed an opinion that the ruling shows that minorities, such as Afrikaans speakers, were misled in 1994 to believe that their language rights would be protected.
She also expressed fear that the ruling will heighten racial tension on South African campuses."The South African past (consider for example the events in Soweto in 1976), but also many other countries such as Bangladesh and Belgium, prove that denying students the right to study in their mother language might lead to increased tensions and even violence," she explained.
"With English monolingualism, only a tiny group of English-speaking students will be privileged, while the rest will have very little hope left that any indigenous language will develop further in future."
Meanwhile, political party, the FF Plus, which advocates for Afrikaner self-determination called the Constitutional Court ruling a setback for mother-tongue instruction. "In a country with eleven official languages, the mediums of instruction must rather be expanded to include more languages instead of languages being taken away and institutions becoming anglicised," FF Plus chairperson Anton Alberts said in a statement.
The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) and the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) however, welcomed the judgement and expressed the opinion that the opposition by AfriForum and others was an indicator of their “racist campaign to retain Afrikaans as the sole medium of instruction in formerly Afrikaans–only public higher educational institutions.”
In a statement, SANCO spokesperson Jabu Mahlangu said AfriForum opposed to the new language policy because, except for the "preservation and domination of the Afrikaans language, it has no interest whatsoever in peaceful solutions to any challenge facing South Africa".
"[AfriForum] is a reactionary formation that is part of the right-wing movement that thrives on heightened racial tensions to appeal to those who wish to plunge the country towards a slippery slope as well as a vicious cycle of conflict, racial hatred and violence,” Mahlangu explained.
To comment on this story or share your own story with Briefly visit our Facebook page where you can send us a message or have your say. Your opinions could be shared online.