Tue, 04 Aug 2020

nothing exists for Vatsonga. , was not extended or replaced when it came to an end. How children are expected to believe that their language matters when they do not hear or see it spoken on TV is beyond me. No wonder many struggle to hold a conversation in Xitsonga. They prefer to converse in English.

It is lack of political will from the government to insist that all languages be treated equally as outlined in the Freedom Charter that "All National Groups shall have Equal Rights."

There shall be equal status in the bodies of the state, in the courts and in the schools for all national groups and races; All people shall have equal right to use their own languages and to develop their own folk culture and custom

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) was established to promote multilingualism, to develop the 11 official languages, and to protect language rights in South Africa. I have not heard it speak out against the exclusion of Xitsonga in general use on TV. It seems to regard its role as that of helping authors and publishers of books and to translate English and Afrikaans into other languages. Surely helping authors should include calling for scripts for plays for use by the SABC. They seem to be there for the prestige and salaries.

It is the same with the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL), who seem more concerned about the antics of wayward pastors who instruct their followers to eat grass and drink petrol than the rights of linguists communities.

If government is committed to promotion of all languages on TV why is Xitsonga not part of the languages used to call on the public to follow anti Covid-19 health guidelines of washing hands, sanitizing, wearing of masks and keeping physical distance. Does the language policy of the department of health exclude Xitsonga?

Since the advent of democracy government has opened two new universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape with another one earmarked for Ekurhuleni in Gauteng. This is commendable. Yet, Giyani and the surrounding environs with infrastructure that used to house UniGaz stands empty. Again this feeds into the narrative of exclusion under a new dispensation. Surely there is a bigger feed there for university students as well.

Thomas Hasani Chauke, a Xitsonga musician sings, about an orphan asking parents: "Ndzi n'wana mani? (Whose child am I). Many in those areas are asking the same question of our government.

Recently a letter was sent to the Judge President of the Polokwane High Court asking why there was not even a single Mutsonga in his recently constituted bench. Maybe the letter was directed at the wrong door, but the point they were making remains valid - that those in charge of the justice system cannot in good conscience say that they could not find anyone to be on the bench. Again it points to lack of political will or asking the difficult question of whether the bench is representative beyond race and gender.

Government has done a lot to deal with issues of tribalism, real and perceived. They can do more to ensure that one does not get confronted with questions of "kasi hina hi vana va mani" (whose children are we) every time one sets foot in the village.

In the same way issues of race and gender can not be left to the state alone, Vatsonga also have a responsibility.

It is incumbent upon them to grow Xitsonga literature including research, writing, publishing, distribution, reading, conversation and speech-making.

They have a duty to document known indigenous knowledge systems working with other progressive formations inside and outside of the republic.

But individual and linguistic communities can only do so much on their own.

It is time for government to meet them halfway by fulfilling the promises of our constitution.

News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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