The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) has responded to comments made by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Josephine Mokwele, after a debate erupted in parliament over an FF+ MP’s use of Afrikaans.
During a debate on July 10 relating to a vote the members of the National Assembly needed to take regarding public works, FF+ MP Philippus van Staden chose to speak in Afrikaans.
This led to Mokwele rising on a point of order.
“This is a very disturbing language, I want to listen to a proper language but I can’t get my translation, so can we be assisted please with due respect,” she said.
After the chairperson said she would “raise the matter with language services”, Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen rose on a point of order in response to Mokwele.
“House chair, I rise in terms of rule 85. I agree completely [with] what the member has said, there should be language services available, it is a disgrace that they’re not available if that is the case so I concur there. But what you can’t do is say that somebody’s language is disturbing,” he said.
“There are 11 official languages, they all have equal status, they must all be respected in this house, we must respect each others’ languages if this house is to prevail.”
This led to Mokwele doubling down, saying: “I will never respect Afrikaans as much as they don’t respect my language.”
She continued to say that it was her “democratic right not to respect it” and that “no one will force me to respect Afrikaans”.
The FF+ responded in a statement: “The statement by an EFF member [that Afrikaans is a disturbing language] is an insult to all speakers of the language. The FF+ views South Africa as a tapestry of communities with beautiful languages and cultures that should all be respected, valued and promoted. No language is above another.”
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)