Witness’s isiZulu ban a return to apartheid says language expert

Chairperson of the Royal Household Trust Professor Sihawu Ngubane said any call for staff not to speak in isiZulu was a violation of human rights and needed to be swiftly dealt with.
“The king would be very disturbed if he were to learn of this. This is an attack not only on isiZulu but all African languages,” said Professor Sihawu.
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has expressed its outrage that employees of The Witness were instructed not to speak their mother-tongue at work. The party’s provincial secretary Supa Zuma said that such an instruction if indeed true would mean that The Witness was operating outside of the law and the Constitution.
“We fought against the domination of one language over others and many people lost their lives struggling against injustice in South Africa. This will not go unchallenged and we will pursue every avenue available in challenging this, including if needs be, asking the Human Right’s Commission to intervene,” said Zuma.
Local isiZulu historian and language expert Professor Jabulani Maphalala also added his voice to the growing outrage saying that any moves to restrict South Africans from speaking in their indigenous language heralded a return to the apartheid era.
“South Africa was bilingual during the reign of the National Party when Nguni languages were not recognised. We now live in a constitutional democracy where languages are deemed equal, so you can imagine my shock when I learnt of this,” Maphalala added.
South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) Executive Director Mathatha Tsedu said the matter would not be challenged as it fell outside the organisation’s mandate.
“What would constitute a matter for Sanef would be if there was evidence that the operation of staff is compromised because of such an instruction. For instance if a journalist working for an isiZulu paper was forced to communicate in English and Afrikaans that would be a matter that we would tackle ,” Tsedu stated.
The Witness directive also affects staff working for the Echo newspaper, an isiZulu community title published alongside The Witness in Pietermaritzburg.

Now read: No (isi)Zulu on my stoep!

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