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.