Language policy battle between Afriforum and UP continues

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – OCTOBER 3: Adv Gilbert Marcus SC during John Hlophe's Judicial Service Commission tribunal which is investigating a complaint of judicial misconduct against  him on October 3, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The five-year-old case continued at Garden City Hotel yesterday. In 2008 Judge Hlophe allegedly tried to influence two Constitutional Court judges to make a ruling in favour of President Jacob Zuma. (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Nelius Rademan)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – OCTOBER 3: Adv Gilbert Marcus SC during John Hlophe's Judicial Service Commission tribunal which is investigating a complaint of judicial misconduct against him on October 3, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The five-year-old case continued at Garden City Hotel yesterday. In 2008 Judge Hlophe allegedly tried to influence two Constitutional Court judges to make a ruling in favour of President Jacob Zuma. (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Nelius Rademan)

The university’s highest decision-making body decided to change its language policy earlier this year.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria heard on Thursday that AfriForum’s application to reverse the new language policy at the University of Pretoria (UP) should be dismissed with costs because AfriForum launched it on the basis of evidence unlawfully obtained from a secret informant who violated his/her duty of confidentiality to the university.

Advocate Gilbert Marcus, on behalf of UP and others who are the respondents in this case, said despite repeated invitations to disclose the identity of the informant, AfriForum has refused to do so, contending that it was irrelevant.

“Behaviour of this sort cannot be overlooked by a court.

“It must have some consequence, lest it ever be thought to be acceptable for litigation to be conducted in this way,” Marcus added.

In terms of the new language policy, English will be the primary medium of instruction at the institution and Afrikaans will be phased out as language of tuition.

Both AfriForum and trade union Solidarity are of the opinion that this amounts to a serious contravention of the constitutionally recognised language rights of Afrikaans students, saying the university must be responsive to the community it serves, which includes Afrikaans-speaking people.

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The university’s highest decision-making body decided to change the language policy earlier this year.

Representing AfriForum, advocate Johan du Toit, supported by advocate Greta Engelbrecht, argued that everyone had the right to receive education in the language of their choice.

Du Toit said that social cohesion happens outside the class, not inside the class.

AfriForum said, in the founding affidavit, that the informant was subject to the rules of the UP council, which impose confidentiality on him.

The informant’s name was withheld for his protection.

Marcus said: “Because of the use of an unidentified informant, the finger of suspicion hangs over everyone.”

He also submitted that the existing language policy discriminated directly on the basis of language against those students who did not understand Afrikaans properly.

They had no choice at all as far as their language of tuition was concerned, he said.

“They are taught in English regardless of their cultural and educational background and whether English is their second, third or sixth language, but Afrikaans students have a choice between Afrikaans and English,” Marcus said.

The case continues on Friday.

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