A full bench of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has dismissed an application by AfriForum and Solidarity to set aside the University of Pretoria’s decision that English would be its main language of instruction.
The organisations maintained that the June 2016 decision removing the existing rights of Afrikaans-speaking students to be instructed in the language of their choice discriminated against them on the basis of language and was unconstitutional because it was reasonably practicable to offer tuition in Afrikaans.
The university opposed the application, arguing that retaining Afrikaans discriminated against the majority of its students and that the decision was justifiable, as only 25.1% of their students were Afrikaans-speaking and the decline in the enrolment of white students and the demand for Afrikaans was likely to continue.
The university maintained retaining Afrikaans would perpetuate racial segregation and the new policy would facilitate social cohesion.
Judges Peter Mabuse, Jody Kollapen and Selby Baqwa dismissed the application with costs. Judge Mabuse said it was unassailable that providing tuition in Afrikaans was not reasonably practicable as the data indicated a decline in the demand for Afrikaans and of white students at the university, therefore the new policy could not be seen as discriminatory.
He said the university’s language policy choice was consistent with the unifying diversity the constitution contemplates and also signalled “a deep and sincere commitment to place the university at the forefront of advancing social cohesion”. – firstname.lastname@example.org