Activist: Publish laws in all 11 languages

Cape Town - The government has been taken to the Equality Court in a bid to get it to publish legislation in all 11 official languages.

Language activist Cornelius Lourens alleges that Parliament discriminates against 10 of the 11 officials languages because legislation is only published in English, the Times reported.

Lourens was quoted by the Cape Times as saying that legislation being published in only English makes it appear that it is the “super official language”.

He said Parliament passed 37 laws a year with an average of 400 000 words.

According to Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, which is backing Lourens’s case, translations of acts into languages in which they are not published, have no official status.  

In a statement released on Sunday, Bailey said: “Therefore if one were to base a legal argument on such a translation containing a wrong interpretation or translation, you would have no legal defence.  In other words, by denying South Africans’ language rights, all other rights are put at risk.”

An expert on human rights law with a focus on language, Fernand de Varennes, told the court that the practice in most countries was that if a constitution is silent as to the language in which legislation is published, then it means legislation will be published in all the national official languages.

South Africa’s Constitution is silent on the issue.

But government says it simply cannot publish in all 11 languages.

AfriForum’s Bailey told the Times that she feels so strongly about the case that she will go all the way to the United Nations to fight her case.

Douglas Ross 2014/08/19 10:33:45 AM
Now will there still be people calling AfriForum racist? They're fighting for all of our rights.
lloyd macklin 2014/08/19 10:36:05 AM
They do not really want legislation to be translated into all eleven languages; they want it in Afrikaans. It is simply unaffordable and would lead to anarchy. Can you imagine defense lawyers checking every piece of legislation in the hope of finding contradictions resulting from translation errors?
trev2 2014/08/19 10:42:32 AM
What percentage of the population actually reads legislation? I would be surprised if it was more than 1%. What a waste of time, effort and money to have it in 11 languages!
Ryan Turner 2014/08/19 11:07:53 AM
This is such an absolute waste of time and effort. Fighting it all the way to the UN?! Get real, there are much more important issues than wasting paper
Garrick Dunstan 2014/08/19 11:09:32 AM
It will cause confusion as we saw in interpretations in courts now, you cannot successfully arrive at the same making 11 times
Psalm Proverb 2014/08/19 11:10:35 AM
I don't think that the court will force the government to publish laws in all 11 languages. The rights contained in our Constitution are not absolute. Furthermore, if the court were to try force this, it is likely that the passing of legislation would take decades. You would first have to develop every African language sufficiently for legislative, financial, medical, etc purposes - as laws cut across many of these domains. The court would not be in position to force the state to pass laws in all 11 languages and, at the same time, permit the state to leave out under-developed African languages of this country - which would mean that the court was essentially fighting for Afrikaans, not the 9 African languages. Such a decision in favour of Afrikaans would understandably lead to rage and riots in this country.
Richard 2014/08/19 11:19:40 AM
Technically I agree that laws should be available in all the official languages but it is simply not practical. In fact many things should be available in all 11 languages e.g the news on TV, newspapers, road signs etc etc hence my belief that to have 11 languages was stupid to start with. It is simply not practical.
Tsotsibaby Kellogg's Corn Flakes 2014/08/19 11:37:13 AM
Must suck to be one of these people
Raymond Whittaker 2014/08/19 11:51:26 AM
There are only two languages that count English and Zulu that's all that is needed.
Sokhela Sakhile 2014/08/19 12:19:58 PM
Well there are 9 provinces so just do it according to the most spoken language per province its possible.