South Africa: 'I'm Not Respecting Afrikaans, It's My Democratic Right' - EFF MP to Ff+

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Economic Freedom Fighters EFF logo

The Freedom Front Plus has complained about comments by an Economic Freedom Fighters MP that Afrikaans is "disturbing", calling the comments a concerted attack on the language.

FF Plus MP Wouter Wessels was responding to a debate on the use of Afrikaans in Parliament after it was raised by EFF MP Josephine Mokwele last week.

The incident took place during the public works department budget vote debate on Wednesday.

Mokwele had interrupted FF Plus MP Philippus van Staden, who was delivering a speech in Afrikaans, to demand that his speech be translated.

"This is a very undisturbing (sic) language. I want to listen to a proper language, but I can't get my translation," Mokwele said.

The House chairperson Jane Manganye said she would refer the matter to the National Assembly's language services.

Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen then rose on a point of order.

'Exactly, I said that'

He concurred with Mokwele that translations should be available, but added that all 11 official languages should be treated equally.

"It is a disgrace that they (translations) are not available, if that is the case. But what you can't do is refer to somebody's language as disturbing or whatever it was referred to," Steenhuisen said.

"There are 11 official languages in this country. They all have equal status and they must all be respected in this House," he said.

When the House chairperson asked if she had indeed uttered those words, she responded: "Exactly, I said that."

The House chair Manganye then asked Mokwele to retract the statement, to which she responded: "I'm not respecting Afrikaans. It is my democratic right... no one will force me to respect Afrikaans.

"As much as he cannot speak my language. I cannot speak or respect his language," Mokwele added.

'Unconstitutional and unbecoming'

Wessels told News24 on Thursday that he agreed that there should be translation services available and called for all languages to be respected.

"We agree that there should be translations services, but we should distinguish between a political play, simply trying to score political points, and fighting against Afrikaans, which is an official language, just for the sake of it," he said.

Wessels said Mokwele was in breach of the Constitution, which all MPs had sworn to uphold.

"Honourable Mokwele saying she does not respect Afrikaans and that Afrikaans is a disturbing language is unconstitutional and unbecoming of a member of Parliament," he said.

The FF Plus said it wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly about the matter and was awaiting a response.


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