| DeurAfriForum

AfriForum Youth demands maximum public visibility of SU’s apology regarding human rights violations of Afrikaans students

AfriForum Youth undertakes to ensure that the Stellenbosch University (SU) will publicly apologise to students with maximum public visibility for human rights violations. This follows the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) findings that the SU had violated students’ human rights by prohibiting them from speaking Afrikaans.

In its report on Wednesday morning, the SAHRC demanded that the SU issue a written, public apology through the office of the rector and vice-chancellor. The youth organisation argues that this public apology is necessary precisely because the condemned events of 2021 were repeated in 2023 and proves that there is still a culture where student leaders feel comfortable forbidding students to speak their mother language. AfriForum Youth wants to prevent the SU from doing the minimum to fulfil the mandate as stipulated by the SAHRC.

“This apology must not only be for the students who’s rights were infringed on but also highlight the destructive culture of language exclusion and emphasise that a discriminatory attitude towards language is unacceptable. The SAHRC’s report, as well as AfriForum’s Constitutional Court victory in 2021 for preserving Afrikaans as a full-fledged language of instruction at Unisa, proves that the zeitgeist surrounding language is shifting as the need for multilingualism grows. AfriForum Youth will continue to fight for Afrikaans on our university campuses,” says René van der Vyver, spokesperson for AfriForum Youth.

AfriForum Youth has already fulfilled its responsibility this year as a watchdog at the SU by acting purposefully and planning further actions after students’ human rights were violated again during the 2023 welcome function when student leaders instructed first-year students to only speak English. Members of the youth organisation will henceforth strengthen this role on the SU campus and confirm with student leaders whether the instruction from the SAHRC that the SU must within 74 days (60 days after they have disclosed the report to the residence leadership within the next 14 days) provide training for the residence leadership on the correct interpretation and application of the 2021 language policy. AfriForum Youth’s Maties branch offers a platform where students can anonymously and directly report similar infringements and incidents, where a single-English policy is implemented.

In contrast to the findings of the SAHRC, which focused on language rights, regardless of which language is in question, the Khampepe report of October 2022 specifically singled out Afrikaans as a scapegoat.

“This makes the biased assessment of the Khampepe report’s content and recommendations clear and underlines why this report created problems rather than solving them. One of the recommendations was that the preference for Afrikaans on campus should not exclude anyone, but that the opposite is just as important, namely that no one is excluded because he or she has chosen in favour of Afrikaans. To truly create a culture of inclusion on campuses, all students’ language rights and language choices must be recognised and respected,” concludes Alana Bailey, Head of Cultural Affairs at AfriForum.