19 November 2013

South Africa: Use of Official Language Act Implementation Lagging Behind

press release

The Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, needs to explain why no government departments, public enterprises or entities have finalised their language policies and established language units as required by the Use of Official Language Act of 2012. This information was revealed in recent reply to a DA parliamentary question.

The Use of Official Language Act was promulgated in October 2012 making it compulsory for all national departments, public enterprises and entities to make use of at least three official languages for public communication purposes. In terms of the Act, the Minister of Arts and Culture is responsible for monitoring and driving its implementation.

It is concerning that 13 months later, no real preparations are being made for its implementation. This Act could lead to improved communication between government and its citizens, and better service delivery. It also has the potential to address South Africa's unfortunate legacy of linguistic marginalisation.

The lack of implementation of the Act is no doubt exacerbated by the fact that the institution responsible for overseeing the Act's implementation - the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) - has been operating without a board and permanent CEO.

It has been almost six months since the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture forwarded its new PanSALB board member recommendations to Arts and Culture Minister, Paul Mashatile. He has however been dragging his heels and is yet to appoint a new board as per the Portfolio Committee's recommendation.

If Minister Mashatile is committed to promoting multilingualism as he has often publicly stated, he would ensure that the Act required for this is implemented, and the organisation responsible for overseeing its implementation is appointed. He must now explain the reasons for the delay.

Ena van Schalkwyk, Shadow Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture

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