28 August 2012
The Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile welcomes the deliberations and finalisation of the Use of Official Languages Bill by the Select Committee on Education and Recreation. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) will finalise the long- awaited Use of Official Languages Bill tomorrow after many months of deliberation in Parliament.
The passing of this Bill will compel government departments and entities to provide services and information to the people of South Africa in the official language of their choice.
Government aims to promote the equitable use of all official languages and in the long run endeavour to equally promote the use of sign language. The Bill contributes significantly to the effort to promote multilingualism as South Africans will now have an opportunity to use the official language of their choice in interacting with government.
The Bill provides for the establishment and functions of a national language unit and departmental units. Section 6 of the Constitution identifies 11 official languages but also obliges the State to take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of Indigenous languages. In terms of the Bill, language policies of national departments should identify at least three official languages to be used for official purposes.
One of the people who would have welcomed this Bill and would have in fact impelled us to do more would have been the linguist, educationalist and political activist, Dr Neville Alexander, who passed away yesterday. He was keen that all South Africans should learn at least one African language throughout school and tertiary education levels. The passing of the Bill should serve as a way to honour a committed compatriot such as Alexander.
The Bill will empower the Minister to monitor the use of official languages by getting reports from the departments on the activities of their language units. The Minister is required to report to Parliament annually on the use of official languages for the provision of government services.
This Bill will also make a massive contribution towards the effort to promote multilingualism. It is not aimed at diminishing the significance and use of any of the South African official languages but instead to foster equity.
For enquiries, kindly contact Percy Mthimkhulu on 082389 2684
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