The ANC has always been in favour of multilingualism, from as far back as the Freedom Charter. The liberation party declared that all people shall have equal rights to use their own languages and develop their own folk culture and customs. Some people do not recognise the catastrophic impact that colonialism and apartheid had on African languages. There was a deliberate onslaught against Africans and their own languages, especially the first people, the Khoikhoi and the San, who fought against oppression from as early as the 15th century.
When you are dealing with the question of language and equality, you would expect the full support of the perpetrators of languages that trampled on indigenous languages and coerced Africans into speaking their languages. During that process the illegitimate state used the taxes of Africans to marginalise their own languages while the languages of the oppressors were being promoted. You find that even in certain political parties today, the idea of giving equal status to all indigenous languages is perceived as a threat to dominant languages like English.
We want to assure South Africans, abantu bethu [our people], that Bills such as the Use of Official Languages Bill, which was passed last year, and the Bill we are passing today - by the way, we will pass it because we are the majority - will not suppress any of the official languages but promote all languages so that they are treated the same, both in government and commerce.
The Bill addresses the legitimate concerns of languages and culture and does not narrow its scope by protecting just one or two languages, but all 11 official languages. In fact, the Language Practitioner's Council Bill will ensure that equal status is given to all historically diminished languages without taking away English and Afrikaans, hon Mulder.
Uyayiva akunjalo? Kulungile. [You do understand, right? That is good.]
The council will be responsible for the professionalisation of the use of indigenous languages and the protection of all language practitioners from all official languages in South Africa. Right now, only English and Afrikaans have some resemblance to a professional sector, but this is unregulated and cannot cater for all 11 languages. While there are voluntary organisations that purport to provide professional registration of language practitioners, these remain unregulated and cater only for the white minority. There is no evidence that suggests that language practitioners are accountable and that they are obliged to meet the necessary standards of service. Hence, this council will enforce registration of all language practitioners in the country so that individuals providing language services are identified and adhere to a particular level of professionalism.
The establishment of the council will demonstrate that accredited language skills are more likely to provide the most effective language services. Hence, as the Minister correctly says, the role of the council will be to govern the language practitioners and turn them into a professionally recognised sector. The ethics in this industry are found in the moral character of the language sector so that it is no longer perceived as an unscrupulous sector where people provide poor services and get away with it.
When it comes to African languages, you find that people do not want to pay translators because they say they are our mothers, uncles and siblings. They ask why they should pay their own people.
In the health sector ...
... nina bantu bahlala begula kakhulu nisiya kwizibhedlele zikarhulumente ufika oomama phaya betolika, betolikela ugqirha ongumlungu kodwa bangabhatalwa kuba kusithiwa abazizo iingcali [professionals] kodwa olu lwimi bayaluthetha kwaye bayamnceda ugqirha ngokuthi bamxelele ukuba lo mntu uyagula uphethwe yintloko okanye iinyawo ... (Translations of the isiXhosa paragraph follows.)
[... where there are people who are always sick and go to public hospitals, you will find women interpreting for the white doctor but they are not paid for that on the basis that they are not professionals; however, they speak the language and they are also helping the doctor by telling him/her that the patient is suffering from a headache or sore feet.]
Then, later, we say we don't want to pay these people. No, it is not fair. When you go to other different sectors, where you find ...
... ukuba aba bantu bayatolika kodwa ababhatalwa ... [... that these people are interpreting but are not paid ...]
... we call them our "organic intellectuals" when we need their information but when we are supposed to pay them, then we say, no, they have not been regulated. This is what this Bill seeks to do. [Applause.]
The proposed council will promote indigenous languages by ensuring that people working in the language sector are not exploited and are paid what they are worth. If you look at the profile of people who speak indigenous languages, ngabantu bethu [it's our people]. These people are from our communities, our townships, our villages and they are so impoverished that they don't even know how to access the language sector as a trade. We proudly say that we have dictionaries for our African languages. They have been translated, from the Khoi, the San and I remember people saying they were busy with the Nama. But those people are not paid! Those who are educated, the researchers ...
... baya phaya kubo balufumane ulwimi baze bakugqiba... [... go to them and acquire the language and when they finish ...]
... then they get the victory of saying that they translated an English dictionary into isiXhosa, isiZulu or Setswana ...
...empa bomme ba teng ha ba fumane letho, tjhelete e ile le makgowa. [... yet these people do not benefit anything; all the money goes to the white people.]
These people from our communities and villages deserve to be recognised. It will be this council's responsibility to ensure that people from disadvantaged communities enter the language sector and find jobs as interpreters, translators, writers, editors and so forth. The council will encourage people from poor communities to participate in the language sector to earn a living. People who are exploited in the industry tend to move away from it once they realise that bayaqhathwa [they are being taken for a ride] and are not being paid as they should. South Africa has moved away from promoting unregulated sectors that take advantage of less powerful people.
The ability of language to link people to the services offered by the government is what the previous Bill was trying to achieve. As I said, when you go to a hospital, for instance, you understand what the medical staff member is saying. In cases like these, accredited language practitioners would ensure that they felt closer to society and resources.
Sometimes you find that an interpreter is not doing a good job of translating information and you fail to understand what is being said, even though it is said in your own home language. The Bill is very clear that the council must regulate the training of language practitioners to ensure that they meet certain standards in the sector. Similar to any other trade, the council will organise language practitioners according to its own standards, authority and policies. The council will be responsible for prescribing how to regulate the sector that should be governed.
The Language Practitioner's Council Bill debate has come at a time when people are crying out for their languages to be recognised. We do see some progress in the media, with news channels offering content in indigenous languages, but this is a drop in the ocean of what is possible.
Language rights will not only be recognised by the passing of the Bill. As the ANC has the mandate of over 65% of the voters, it is our obligation to bring such services to the people. The ANC views this Bill as a way to undo the damage that was done by the apartheid minority government. It is unfortunate that hon Steenhuisen, my friend, is not here today because he said that it was not true that our languages were marginalised. The question I would have asked him today is why he cannot speak any of our languages if they had not been marginalised. That is the question because he was saying that I am not speaking the truth. But hon members will pass on that message. [Interjections.]
The issue of language is a very sensitive issue. Some of the people who are saying this today were raised by people who never went to school, but they understood the language when they were hungry. They understood their language when they wanted anything to be done. But now they suddenly say that this language was recognised.
Furthermore, we also encourage workplaces to follow this Bill that we are speaking about. You find that there are still places that discriminate against our own languages; where, in the workplace...
.. kuthiwa abantu mabathethe isilungu kuba umlungu akabeva kwaye bayamhleba. [... people are told to speak English because the white person does not understand their language and they are gossiping about him/her.]
We have cases where our languages are not recognised.
Furthermore, we condemn those teachers who say that children must speak English even when they are at home. They think that language is superior just because they are professional teachers. The issue of languages is very important.
As I said when I started, we agreed unanimously on the Bill. We made our inputs as the committee. I know hon Mulder could be one member to come and say something, but I don't think he will say anything different because this does not take Afrikaans away.
Ons kan nie daardie ding doen nie. Afrikaans is geskiedenis. Ek praat ook Afrikaans. [We cannot do that. Afrikaans is part of history. I also speak Afrikaans.]
Ngoko ke, ndicela ukuba ungasisokolisi namhlanje ... [I therefore beg you not to give us hard time today ...]
... just agree with the Bill. Thank you.