The Official Languages Bill which was tabled before Parliament today by Minister of Arts and Culture Mr. Paul Mashatile, has won the support of all political parties.
In tabling the Bill before the House, Mashatile said, "the Bill we are tabling today is a product of popular participation, as well as country wide consultations with all stakeholders."
He added that through this Bill Government aims to promote the equitable use of all official languages and in the long run, we will endeavour 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 Bill will also make a massive contribution towards the national effort to promote multilingualism.
The 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.
It obliges every national department to adopt a language 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.
"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," said Mashatile.