Speech by Minister Paul Mashatile, on the occasion of the tabling of the use of Official Languages Bill

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07 Aug 2012

Honourable Speaker and Deputy Speaker
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members
Manene nani manenekazi

It is my honour to present for consideration before this House the Use of Official Languages Bill.

The Bill we are tabling today is a product of popular participation   as well as country wide consultations with all stakeholders.

Honourable Members, the Freedom Charter, which is the basis of our democratic Constitution and is a document that carries the aspirations of the majority of South Africans states;

All people shall have an equal right to use their own languages and to develop their own folk, culture and customs.”

Today as we table this Bill we are taking another giant leap forward in realizing the vision of those pioneers who adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955 and declared boldly that; South Africa belongs to all who live in it; Black and White.

Indeed today we are taking a major step towards building a society based on unity, equality, democracy and dignity for all.

Constitutional basis for the Bill

Honourable Members, the Constitution of our country urges us to heal the divisions of the past and to establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.

Deel van die helingsproses, uit ons oogpunt, is die behoefte om te verseker dat daardie tale wat in die verlede doelbewus gemaarginaliseer is in die samelewing, veral die inheemse Afrika-tale, gelyke status ontvang en ontwikkel word tot op die vlak van daadie tale wat dominant was.

The Bill we are tabling before this House, therefore, is aimed at  ensuring that government elevates the status of especially  indigenous languages and promotes their wide spread use.

This Bill will also make a massive contribution towards the national effort to promote multilingualism.

We wish to reiterate that this Bill is not aimed at diminishing the significance and use of any of the South African official languages.

Through this Bill we will promote equitable use of all official languages.

In the long run we will endeavor to equally promote the use of sign language.

As a result of this Bill South Africans will now have an opportunity to use the official languages of their choice in interacting with government.

This we believe will strengthen efforts to ensure equal access to government services and programmes; and thus contribute to the goal of building an empowered citizenry.

Specifically, this Bill seeks to provide for the regulation and monitoring of the use of official languages by national government and public entities for official purposes.

The Bill also provides for the establishment and functions of a national language unit and departmental languages units.

Through this Bill we are giving effect to the provisions of Section 6 of the Constitution.

Section 6 of the Constitution not only 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.

Vumbiwa byi tlhela byi lerisa leswaku tindzimi ta ximfumo hinkwato ti fanele ti xiximiwa ku ringana naswona ti fanele ti khomiwa hi ndlela yo  ringana.

“Ku xiximiwa ku ringana” swi twisisiwa ku va swi vula leswaku tindzimi hinkwato ta ximfumo ti fanele ti xiximiwa no hlayisiwa hi ndlela yo fana

Application of the Bill

Honourable Members this Bill applies to all national departments, national public entities and national public enterprises.

It obliges every national department to adopt a langauage policy on the use of official languages for official purposes.

In terms of the Bill language policies by national departments should among others identify at least three official languages to be used for official purposes. 

The Bill requires that when identifying these three official languages, national departments must take into account its Constitutional obligation to take practical steps to elevate the status and advance the use of indigenous languages whose historic use and status was diminished.

The Bill provides for the establishment of a National Language Unit that will amongst others advise the Minister of Arts and Culture on the policy and strategy to regulate and monitor the use of official languages.

It also provides for the establishment of language units in every national department, public entity and national public enterprise to advise the national department on the development, adoption, and implementation and monitoring of its language policy.

The Bill also gives powers to the Minister of Arts and Culture to monitor the use of official languages, by getting reports from departments on the activities of their language units.

The Minister is required, on an annual basis, to table a report to Parliament on the use of official languages for the provision of government services.

Somlomo, sinethemba elikhulu ukuthi lomthetho esiwubeka phambi kwalendlu ehloniphekile uzokwamukeleka.

Adopting this Bill will ensure that we make new and decisive advances towards the kind of society envisaged by the Freedom Charter.

This is a society that is a collective expression of our desire for a better, caring, humane and shared destiny for all South Africans.

Ke a leboga