The South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) investigation into the alleged ban on Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University (SU) was scheduled to resume on Monday. Afrikaans interest groups expected to state their case.
The SAHRC issued a statement addressing the alleged prohibition earlier this year:
“The South African Human Rights Commission (“the Commission” or “SAHRC”) has received a number of complaints alleging that students at the University of Stellenbosch (“SU”) are being prevented from communicating in selected languages. The complaints received relate specifically to the use of Afrikaans. The Commission however seeks to understand the extent of this alleged prohibition.
The ban has allegedly been enforced by prohibiting the use of Afrikaans in private spaces, including residences, bedrooms, digital platforms such as WhatsApp and even on park benches in front of students’ residences.
“The Commission is investigating the matter and has written to the Rector and Vice Chancellor of SU, Prof Wim de Villiers, regarding the allegations. The Commission’s investigation at this stage relates to alleged violations of a number of rights, including the right to equality on the basis of language, race or any other prohibited ground. Further particulars will be provided in due course.”
Meanwhile, a few months ago, Martin Viljoen stated that the university launched an investigation as soon as these allegations came to light. He was quoted by IOL as saying:
“The management of SU welcomes the investigation by the SAHRC as well as the opportunity to respond to clear up matters. Via its Division of Student Affairs, the university launched an own investigation, while it also engaged with student leaders in residences on the matter, with a process under way to work towards a common understanding of the Language Policy (2016).
“This included workshops on language policy implementation to empower student leaders and also to ensure adherence to the policy. These workshops also explore ways of promoting multilingualism among students. Importantly, the university is an educational institution and therefore the situation is treated constructively as a learning opportunity. This is critically important in our diverse and multilingual campus community,” he said.
According to News24, those who are expected to testify include an organisation called the DAK Netwerk, which was established with the aim of providing a structural basis for the development of Afrikaans in previously deprived communities.
Student organization Studenteplein, FF+ leader, Dr Pieter Groenewald and representatives of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch are also included in this list to testify.
Professor Wim de Villiers said that Stellenbosch University was an “inclusive, multilingual university”, denying it to be an English-only policy, News24 reports.