20 JULY 2023

The Commission for the promotion and protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious, and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) welcomes the recognition of the South African Sign Language as the country’s 12th official language.

The President, Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law, the South African Sign Language Bill after the National Assembly approved the of Section 6 of the Constitution to include the South African Language (SASL) as the official language, thereby giving a directive to all organs of state such as schools, courts, police stations and every other institution to facilitate its usage.

The CRL Rights Commission applauds the passing into law the recognition of the South African Sign Language (SASL) as it will advance the unequivocal cultural acceptance of the language. But also, this constitutional amendment affirms the right of this linguistic community to contribute to inclusiveness and all efforts or initiatives aimed at advancing social cohesion.

Notably, this recognition of the South African Sign Language comes at the time when the Commission had recently launched its investigative hearings on the treatment of the twelve official languages in South Africa. These hearings had to investigate the use and status of the indigenous languages by government departments and other organs of state; ascertain the measures (if any) that are in place to advance the equal treatment of all the South African official languages; assess the current efforts and future plans being followed by departments and other organs of state to regulate, monitor and elevate the use of all the official languages among other things for teaching, research, science, technology, commerce as well as to be languages of record. Most certainly, it is within this context of equal treatment of all languages that the Commission applauds this recognition of the South African Sign Language as the 12th official language in our country.

More importantly, the elevation and equal treatment of all South African languages goes a long way towards realising the aspirations of many in our country since the dawn of democracy in 1994 that their languages and cultures won’t be subjected to unequal treatment or marginalisation but would be afforded equal status and treatment. Also, it has been the expectation from the public and in line with section 6(1) of the South African Constitution, 1996 which affirms that all South African languages should be given their due and constitutional status, thereby allowing each one of them respectively to play an important role in nation building, social cohesion, and the coexistence of our communities.

Issued by the CRL Rights Commission

For inquiries contact:

Mpiyakhe Mkholo – Mpiyakhem@www.crlcommission.org.za

Beverley Mukhavhuli – beverley@www.crlcommission.org.za

011 358 9100

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