South African Languages Bill [B23-2011]: deliberations on proposed amendments

Arts and Culture

29 February 2012
Chairperson: Ms T Sunduza (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department presented the substantive proposed amendments to the Bill. The name of the Bill was proposed to be: Use of Official Languages Bill. A reworded alternative to the current version of Clause 4(2)(b) was presented. However after extensive debate the reworded amendment was voted against.

Debate centered around the desire for the addition of an extra language to the three languages stipulated in the proposed amendments. The Director General again explained why this would be problematic. The Democratic Alliance presented a proposal for an ombuds to handle complaints about national language units not dealing properly with languages. Questions were also raised about the Minister’s compliance with the judgment. One member complained that ‘parity of esteem’ was a consideration only in the Preamble of the Bill. Also clause 4 seemed to emphasise Section 6(2) of the Constitution, making Section 6(3) seem less important. Clause 4(2)(b) was discussed with some members arguing that there was a need to protect all languages regardless of the past whilst others argued that there was a need to right the wrongs that South Africa had experienced. Members also discussed the potential sidelining of Afrikaans. The use of mother tongue within Committee meetings was encouraged by a member. A question of clarification was asked about Section 75 Bills as this Bill was tagged as one.

Meeting report

Presentation of Amendments
Ms Doris Tshepe, a Cheadle Thompson & Haysom director and part of the drafting team, presented the Department’s amendments. She said she would read through the document page by page but only in relation to the ‘big issues’ and not minor, technical changes.

Following the meeting the drafters had with the state law advisors and parliamentary legal advisors, it was decided the name should be changed to Use of Official Languages Bill.

Long Title and Preamble amendments
Ms Tshepe recalled that these provisions had been inserted following a meeting on 1 February 2012 where it had been decided to embrace in the Preamble all the obligations of government in relation to Section 6 of the Constitution. This had been done by the Bill stating that ‘whereas the use of the Republic’s official languages must be promoted and pursued in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa’. This had been in light of the Constitution which provided for 11 official languages of South Africa. It recognised the diminished use and status of indigenous languages of South Africa and required that the state must take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these languages. The Preamble had also stated that ‘whereas Section 6(4) of the Constitution of the Republic of South African 1996 all languages of South Africa to enjoy parity of esteem and be treated equitably.’ This had been done in order to locate the obligations of section 6(4) within its context.

Clause 4 amendments
Ms Tshepe said she would not speak about the proposed amendments in clauses 1, 2 and 3 as these were more about language and clarity.

Ms Tshepe said that the concern had been that if clause 4(1) was left as it stood, it was left too open and the Minister could come and extend that period for a further 18 or 24 months. There was in turn a need to limit the power of minister. Thus clause 4(1) was reworded to provide for language policies to be put in place within 18 months but allowed the Minister to extend the period, but not further than 6 months. The Minister would thus be bound by the 6 months.

Ms Tshepe referred to the document showing rewording to clause 4(2) and a new subclause (3) and said what the Department proposed, following discussions with the Parliamentary Legal Advisors, was that the clause could read:

4(2) A language policy adopted in terms of subsection (1) must—
(a) comply with the provisions of section 6(3) of the Constitution;
(b) identify at least three official languages that the national department, national public entity or national public enterprise will use for government purposes, provided that at least two of the official languages identified must be indigenous languages of historically diminished use and status;                       
(c) stipulate how official languages will be used, amongst other things, in effectively communicating with the public, official notices, government publications and inter- and intra-government communications;
(d) describe how the national department, national public entity or national public enterprise will effectively communicate with members of the public  whose language of choice is: 
(i)         not an official language contemplated in subsection (b); or
(ii)         South African sign language.

(3) In identifying at least three official languages as contemplated in subsection (2)(b), every national department, national public entity and national public enterprise must take into account its obligation to take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of indigenous languages of historically diminished use and status in accordance with section 6(2) of the Constitution.

Ms Tshepe noted the wording in subclause (3) which took into account the obligation to “take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of indigenous languages” in accordance with Section 6(2) of the Constitution’.

Ms Tshepe recalled during the public hearings that one of the main issues was identifying official languages so that in the process indigenous languages were also supported. In this reworded version, the Department was not limiting the use of official languages. As it stood, each department would be able to decide to use three official languages some of which would be of diminished status. Each department would take the obligation in Section 6(2) of the Constitution, taking into consideration the factors listed in Section 6(3) in deciding what the languages would be.

Ms Tshepe said clause 4(2)(d) South African sign language had been added as one of the languages a government entity had to indicate how it would communicate with members of the public if this was their choice of language.

Clause 8(d)
Ms Tshepe said there had been a request for clarity on how the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) would function in terms of oversight. Clause 8(d) stated that a language unit in every national department, national public entity and national enterprise after compiling a report had to submit it to both the Minister and PanSALB.

Deletion of Clause 10
Ms Tshepe said the original wording of clause 10 had been deleted as it was covered by clause 9. She noted the wording of the heading which had changed from Annual Report to Parliament National Assembly. The Parliamentary Legal Advisors had asked for the word ‘parliament’ to be changed to ‘national assembly’. This was to avoid confusion about which of the houses of parliament was to be responsible for this Bill. The Minister had to on an annual basis table a report in the ‘National Assembly’ as opposed to ‘Parliament’.

Ms Tshepe said that for purposes of transparency when the Minister granted exemptions in terms of clause 12, the annual report tabled in the National Assembly needed to include which entities were granted exemption of clause 7. This enabled Parliament to know who had or had not been exempted for purposes of oversight.

Clause 12 Exemption
Ms Tshepe said clause 12 allowed a national public enterprise or national public entity on application or where the Minister of his own accord was of the view that that it should be exempt. Looking at the schedule of these entities in the Public Finance Management Act they were seen to be the smaller public entities and enterprises. Thus it was not all public entities or enterprises but the smaller ones.

Ms Tshepe explained clause 12 said that ‘if the Minister exempts a national public entity or a national public enterprise from the application of clause 7.’ This was exemption from clause 7 to establish a national language unit and was not an exemption from the entire legislation. Where that exemption was granted ‘the national public entity or a national public enterprise must assign a senior employee to perform the functions of a language unit’. They still had to comply with the Act but only needed one person to perform the function.

Those in summary were the more significant amendments made to the Bill.

Ms Zuraya Adhikarie, Chief Parliamentary Legal Adviser, stated that the meeting with the State Law Advisors had been constructive. Most of the suggested changes met with the Parliamentary legal team’s approval. The only concern that remained had been the limitation that was in the additional sub clause in clause 4 (issue of ‘historically diminished’ languages). That had now been taken out making it acceptable to the team. The only other remaining question was the number of official languages but that was a matter for the Committee to decide.

Increase of the number of official languages to 4
Mr S Ntapane (ANC) asked why the Bill could not say at least four official languages. He asked people to consider provinces such as Gauteng where many languages were used. It was unfortunate that the Bill could not call for all official languages to be used. When drafting the Bill, it called for as much inclusiveness as possible as language was a sensitive issue. Having four languages would ensure that. He argued that no department in the country would say it would not use English as this was not practical. Thus to state three would mean English and two others.

The Chairperson asked Mr Ntapane to substantiate the question as this was meant to be a deliberation.

Dr C Mulder (FFP) stated that he wanted to support the notion of four languages as it was important to send the message that government was serious about incorporating all official languages. More languages would send a stronger message. It would also send a very clear message to departments.

Mr H van den Berg (DA) stated that from the DA side, provision 4(2)(b) should have said four official languages.

Ms M Morutoa (ANC) said if the Committee was concerned with increasing the number of languages, then this Bill had to still go to the NCOP. She asked the Director General to explain the issue of the number of languages and the use of numerous languages in provinces as much issues must not be raised without those present understand matters. She felt that the notion of “historically diminished” languages was a good one. Raising the number of languages to four needed the Department to explain the issue surrounding the many languages in provinces.

Ms H Van Schalkwyk (DA) said that she was in favour of four as it would include many previously disadvantaged languages. She argued that in practice many provinces would have to choose between previously advantaged languages and this would be unconstitutional. There was nowhere in the Constitution that said there must be a choice between languages. Having four languages would make the whole endeavor more practical and inclusive.

Ms Van Schalkwyk wanted to make a remark on the cost effectiveness of using more official languages. She argued that as it had been found through research that some provinces used 5 or 6 languages, there would not be additional costs to having 4 as the argument was always based on expense. She also sought to emphasise job creation which was important to government and which had even been mention by the President in his State of the Nation Address. The Bill created the space for job creation in the form of language practitioners. She also emphasised that Afrikaans was historically a disadvantaged language. In the past people had been punished for speaking Afrikaans. The language had however managed to grow and become what it was today and this should serve as a model for the other nine languages.

Ms T Tshabalala (ANC) said she was comfortable with clause 4 as it stood with three languages. However on the topic of whether to have 3 or 4 languages, she did not understand the concerns of other members in terms of having 4 languages. She was not convinced by the fundamental argument for members saying there should be a fourth language. She was not convinced of the shift to four languages as the three was based on the resources that the departments had in order to communicate. She thus supported the use of three languages.

Mr P Ntshiqela (ANC) (translation from Xhosa) said it must be clear that everything the Committee did must be for South Africans. Anybody had the right to propose any number of languages. He was proposing that at least one must be previously disadvantaged.

Mr Sibusiso Xaba, DAC Director-General, said under ideal circumstances all 11 official languages should be used however there were two fundamental constraints to this. The first was cost. The second was capacity and the development of the languages. The Department had been asked by Parliament why they were only developing AIDS terminology in three languages. This question indicated that there was a need to develop quite a number of languages and this would take time, resources and capacity amongst other things. Through the various processes such as public consultations and the like, the Department had made a concession and stretched it to three, he did not believe 4 would be possible. Cabinet had approved a bill that said two languages and the financial assessment was for two languages.

Mr L Khoarai (ANC) said the argument was for four languages but Mr Xaba had made it clear why this could not be. He thus did not understand why this was still an issue. There was also no intention by committee members to be against Afrikaans.

Ms T Nwamitwa-Shilubana (ANC) asked what was wrong with saying “at least” three languages as there would be a choice since previously disadvantaged languages would have to be considered. This debate should not be going on as the Bill did not say “only” three languages but “at least” three meaning departments could go further. Mr Xaba had explained this. She asked why four was being advocated and asked if this was because the first two would automatically be English and Afrikaans.

Dr Mulder queried Mr Xaba saying the number could not be increased to four because of financial implications, yet departments could go past three languages as it was just a minimum. He found it confusing that the Department had said they could not go to four because of financial implications but in the same breath had said the minimum was three and departments could and would go past that.

Compliance with judgment
Dr Mulder had an issue with clause 4(1) and asked if this was acceptable in this form and would it comply with the judgment with regard to the given time frames.

Ms Tshepe said that in terms of the judgment, the order meant the Minister had to comply with Section 6(4) which was to regulate and monitor the use of language through legislative means. What had been important was that an Act be passed within two years not that a language policy had to be in place.

In terms of the judgment, Ms Adhikarie said that the Parliamentary Legal team felt the State Legal Advisors were correct. The court order did not impose such an obligation on Parliament. In terms of what was asked of Parliament one needed to look at the legislative aspect of that judgment. Section 6(4) of the Constitution actually says “legislative and other measures”. The other measures were for the court to measure and make sure there had been compliance but the Department’s goal was to focus on their legislative mandate.

Dr Mulder spoke to the State Legal Advisors and argued that the Bill meant nothing without a languages policy in place. The Bill stated that policy would only be in place in 18 months or after a further 6 months after that. He suggested that the Department looked again at the judgment as there was the risk of a constitutional challenge

Parity of Esteem
Mulder said that in terms of the parity of esteem in the Bill as it stood, he found evidence of only Section 6(1) of the Constitution in the Preamble. It did not appear in later clauses and this was a problem.

Ms Tshepe said that Section 6(1) of the Constitution only mentioned what the official languages were, it did not refer to parity of esteem. Section 6(2) talked of the historically diminished status of indigenous languages and what the state must do. Section 6(3) talked of the factors that needed to be taken into account when determining what languages were used. Parity of esteem only came into Section 6(4) of the Constitution. If one looked at the Bill it was in the Preamble and in clause 2(b) on the objects of the Act. It was also in Section 6 dealing with the function of the National Language Unit. It also appeared in clause 8 with the functions of the Language Unit in national departments, national public entities and national public enterprises. Parity of esteem was thus at the heart of the Bill.

Increased emphasis on Section 6(2) of Constitution

Dr Mulder asked when it came to the proposed wording of clause 4 why was it not spelt out in a similar way to clause 3 as this clause spelled out in detail where it referred to Section 6(2) of the Constitution. However the same was not done for clause 4(2)(a) where one just inferred that it needed to comply with Section 6(3). It did not spell out the provision. This created the impression that the provisions of Section 6(2) were more important than those of 6(3). The memorandum with the proposed re-wording of the clause made by the department showed better wording then what had been proposed. This document was good as it referred to all the various provisions to the Constitution (see document entitled Proposed Rewording of Section 4).

Ms Tshepe said that emphasis had not been given to Section 6(2) and if one read what clause 4(2)(a) stated it said one must comply with Section 6(3). This was a tactical issue as the way it read before was bulky and the Department did not want to regurgitate the provision. There was no way the interpretation could mean that Section 6(2) was given more weight.

Easy understanding of Bills
Mr van den Berg argued that not everyone had legal background and Acts needed to be written in such a manner that average the South African could understand it easily. Otherwise people would have to look to lawyers and the Constitutional Court constantly to help with interpretation. It was important to write the Bill in such a manner that was easy to understand with no space for one’s own interpretation and misuse. People should not have had to guess what the original thought behind the Bill was.

Mr van den Berg argued that that all could agree that the 11 official languages of South Africa were important as language was important to everyone and a very sensitive issue to all. ‘To touch a person’s language was to touch their heart’. He stated this was an ideal chance for Parliament to go forward and allow all the different language speakers to feel they were part of South Africa because the Bill allowed for all to use their languages in communication with the government of South Africa.

Mr van den Berg urged the Committee to make very sure that what was created was going to stand for many years to come. It would have an effect on the future of people in South Africa. What they did now would send a clear message to the people of South Africa, a message of reconciliation. To exclude any of the languages would break down reconciliation and nation building. Thus the Bill needed to be clear so all understood what the government had tried to do, to help all languages in South Africa. It sought to remedy the issue of languages that had been placed on the back burner during the apartheid years and also in the past 18 years where more could have been done. Now was the ideal time to correct the wrongs of the past and serve all the people of South Africa. There should therefore be at least four.

Mr van den Berg also argued that the Committee must be careful in terms of the wording of clause 4(3), that they did not leave an open door, as people would interpret it in personal ways and take advantage of this. There were thousands of officials who would work with this Bill and add personal interpretations.

Mr van den Berg presented the proposal of the Democratic Alliance on this issue (see DA document). The Bill referred to a language unit but there was a need to be honest about this as some people would later complain that various departments were not looking after their language. The DA proposed that there should be ombudsmen as a resort for people who felt their language was not being treated equitably. They proposed inserting in clause 11(1) that an aggrieved person may seek to enforce any right in terms of this Act by (a) referring the matter to the language ombud.

He noted Ms Tshepe’s reference to the 1 February 2012 meeting where the legal team was of the legal view that there were enough monitoring entities for the Bill. Ms Tshepe argued that if those were not enough, members of the public were able to use PANSALB and its powers. Thus the issue of having another layer of enforcement was a policy rather than a legal issue. It had been the view of the state legal team there was no need to have an ombudsmen, but this was a policy issue.

Mr van den Berg said that he was not convinced by the view of the legal team as he had his doubts that the language unit would do a sufficient job.

Injustices of the Past
Ms Morutoa sought to reiterate that if they were going to address past imbalances, those present must not talk in parables. She argued that this could not be done by popularising the very languages that caused languages to be historically diminished. There had been injustices in the past and this was the time to talk about them.

Clause 4(2)(b)
Ms Morutoa she found the work done by the legal team to be very productive and she supported clause 4(2)(b) when it stated there should be at least two languages coming from a historically diminished back ground. She said she supported the clause calling for three languages with at least two from a pick of historically diminished languages. She argued that it had to be enough for those present as it addressed the concerns of the people about indigenous languages.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) said there had been a need to emphasize the notion of ‘historically diminished’. She argued that there were no more than three historically diminished languages in each province. There was a need to use the term ‘historically diminished’ as the Committee could not correct the past if it did not use phrases that allowed the past to be corrected. She argued that the official languages from the past (English and Afrikaans) sought to emerge victorious again but this was the time for change. She also said it was not right to make it so that previously advantaged languages became disadvantaged.

The Chair asked those present if the Committee could follow procedure and go clause by clause through the Bill as it seemed everyone wanted to focus on clause 4. She said that procedure should be followed unless everyone was happy with all the other clauses.

Ms Morutoa said that according to the agenda the Department Legal Advisors would propose amendments and the Committee would deliberate and that is what they were doing. These were the responses given to what had been presented. She asked that they be allowed to deliberate clause 4 in order to proceed with a clear view.

Ms Tshepe said that in the State Legal Advisor team’s view on the ‘old’ clause 4(2)(b), people were not being limited in terms of how many languages could be used as it was stipulated at least two must be indigenous languages. To say that at least two must be indigenous languages was to give voice to Section 6(2) of the Constitution. There was a need to find wording that could give effect to Section 6(2) without it being seen in any way to be limiting or excluding any language, as this was not the intention of clause 4(2)(b). The team believed the rephrasing had given effect to Section 6(2) obligations. Once Section 6(3) and 6(2) were considered and a language was still excluded (despite it fitting the criteria) that was what was unconstitutional.

The Chairperson said that they were transforming the country and this would take time. She argued that if one did not insert the phrase ‘from the historically disadvantaged’ one would still see the dominant use of English and Afrikaans. This would be because people would argue the practicality of using these languages.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr van den Berg that if you wanted destroy a nation you started by destroying the language. She went on to say that was what apartheid did in this country. Although it was not practical she would have liked to see a situation where only indigenous languages were used, and not English and Afrikaans.

Ms Van Schalkwyk argued that in terms of the role of provincial government departments, the issue of local relevance was important. There needed to be a provision for local relevance and this needed to be included in legislation. This would be a means of fixing many of the problems that had been raised.

Mr Xaba said when looking at practicality, it was clear that government work had been done in English and Afrikaans. If a Department that had originally done work in English and Afrikaans when choosing how to develop their language policy, they would not just leave Afrikaans as this would not be practical. The notion was adding other languages to what the Department already had.

DA Proposal
Ms Tshabalala said there had been hearings where various grouping had raised concerns. She asked if it was proper for the DA to have a submission now as public hearings and submissions had already taken place. Her understanding was today’s deliberations were as Members of Parliament together and not as various factions.

The Chairperson said there was nothing wrong with what the DA had done.

Clarification on the phrase ‘at least’
Ms L Moss (ANC) stated that she did not completely understand what was meant by the phrase ‘at least’ when speaking of the number of languages used. She asked if the State Law advisors could clarify. She argued there was a need to look at cost effectiveness as well as the practicality issue. She also sought to emphasize that this was a painful and sensitive issue being discussed.

Mr Xaba said that the Department was working from the basis of the Constitution that recognized the 11 official languages and the difficulties of the past. It was important to note that the Constitution did not say that there should be discrimination against any language and neither did the Bill. The Bill did not instruct to discriminate against any language either by characterization or by specific mention. The Bill also did not say that only three languages can be used. What it did say was that each Department could choose at least three languages. “At least” was quite important as it said this was the minimum. The Bill also said that having made that choice, one should also consider how one would communicate with and do business with people whose language of choice was any other than the three that had been chosen. Thus no one was excluded. The Bill needed to be read in its balanced form.

Use of mother tongue in Committee Meetings
Mr van den Berg said that it would be wonderful if in this committee they could speak in their various mother tongues as the nation was heading towards an English country. He thus encouraged the use of mother tongues.

The Chairperson stated that Mr Ntshiqela expressed himself in isiXhosa and a little English as he had not received the education that would allow him the ability to express himself purely in English due to the situation of the past. This was a fact he was not ashamed of and often alluded to it openly.

Dr Mulder said that language was a very emotive issue and all present felt strongly about their languages. Although people had their own preferences and ideas, the Constitution could not be re-negotiated, if those present did not agree with it then it would need to be amended but not negotiated. As long as the Constitution stood then it allowed for parity of esteem for languages. He argued there had been no success with nation building in the country as it had been based on stumbling from one sporting event to the next. Nation building had not succeeded as there had been no acceptance of the diversity in the country and language was the basis of this diversity. Nation building would not be done by placing emphasis on some languages and disadvantaging others. He noted that some languages were not diminished at the moment but if you went back in history, Afrikaans had also had to fight for survival. It could also be argued that Afrikaans was an indigenous language.

Mr van den Berg said that all present knew there had been a great deal of pain and heartache in the past and that Afrikaans had been the official language of the apartheid era. This would probably cause it to take a ‘beating’. Although Afrikaans had caused a lot of harm there was a need for a clean slate because to punish the language for its past was not good. The Language Bill needed to be written in a way that left no space for personal interpretations or vendettas as Afrikaans could be trampled on because of its past. The Bill, due to the inequalities of the past, could be a stick with which to hit Afrikaans. He fought for all languages as a member of the DA and not exclusively Afrikaans.

The Chairperson sought to correct this notion as she said that the creation of the impression that this Bill sought to kill Afrikaans was unconstitutional. She did want to say that Afrikaans would not disappear as she had found more black people who spoke Afrikaans than English.

Explanation of Section 75 of the Constitution
Ms Morutoa wanted the legal team to explain Section 75 of the Constitution on Ordinary Bills not affecting Provinces.

Ms Adhikarie stated that Section 75 provided that once the National Assembly had voted, then the Bill was referred to the NCOP. But unlike the Section 76 Bill, it did not go to the provinces because it did not affect provinces. This was because it was not a provincial competency to legislate on languages. It was thus voted on within the NCOP and not the provinces themselves. So if the NCOP proposed amendments or rejected the Bill, it had to come back to the National Assembly. The National Assembly would then look into the amendments and either accept or reject them. If it was acceptable, it went to the President.

Ms Morutoa said she was not a legal mind and that is why she had asked for an explanation. She had read it word for word but wanted to make sure it was being interpreted properly. She wanted the grammatical effect explained.

Ms Adhikarie was not sure she understood the concern. There was a procedure set out in Section 74 if A Bill was a constitutional amendment. There was also a Section 76 procedure which required a provincial mandate. These were the bills passed in terms of Schedule 4 of the Constitution, known as Section 76 Bills. A Bill was tagged or classified at the stage of introduction as either 74, 75, 76, 77. If it was not a 74, 76 or 77 (Money Bill) then it was a Section 75 Bill and one followed the procedure set out in Section 75.

Provincial completion of the Bill
Ms Mushwana asked when the last two provinces would be done with the Bill as she was of the understanding that the other seven had finished with it.

Ms Moss made the point that the other seven provinces were actually not yet on board. She said only the Western Cape and Limpopo the others were not yet on board.

Kombuis Language
Ms Mushwana made the point that previous generations had had to understand the kombuis language and she had to be realistic in saying that there was no longer in any need for a kombuis language.

Mr van den Berg said he thought that perhaps Ms Mushwana did not understand the reference to kombuis style languages. In the beginning of the previous century Afrikaans was referred to as a kombuis style and this had nothing to do with people speaking Afrikaans as workers during the apartheid era. The context in which Ms Mushwana had used it and the original context were very different.

Interpretations of the intentions of the Bill
Mr van den Berg argued that the world was not ‘perfect’ and there had been the possibility of people understanding the Bill and it implications in different ways when read. It was easy for Mr Xaba to state that various things (such as the sidelining of Afrikaans) would not happen. However, he was looking at semantics and how people understood the Bill.

Mr van den Berg argued there were perceptions that the Bill would sideline Afrikaans. He argued the government was at a stage where it intended to elevate all languages as it worked predominantly in English. Even the Bill’s official text was in English. There had been no move by departments (including the Department of Arts and Culture) to move away from this. He reiterated his fear that the Bill would open up a door to persecute Afrikaans because of its past.

Ms Morutoa said she thought the Chairperson had explained the issue of the perception that Afrikaans was being harmed. She felt that those present were trying to score points by becoming hysterical as the media was present. She felt that the issue had become about party politics, this was not fair. There was nothing to be hysterical about. The perception that English was dominating was also wrong as Afrikaans was used in a great number of instances.

Wording within the Bill: ‘Promote’ vs ‘Elevate’
Ms Morutoa suggested that changing ‘promote’ to ‘elevate’ changed the meaning.

Voting on Proposed Amendments
Dr Mulder said he did not think that the views of those present were not all that far apart and the Bill as proposed with a few amendments would please everyone.

The initial voting saw nine members voting in favour of the current wording of clause 4(2) in the working draft of the Bill, one voting for the reworded amendment, and two abstentions.

Point of Order on Voting
During the voting process, Dr Mulder stated as point of order that he was concerned that decisions had been taken that were opposed by the Rules of Parliament. He suggested that procedurally the Chairperson should have first put each of the proposed amendments to the vote and by doing so, this allowed people to vote in favour or against that amendment. If these amendments were defeated that was when the original proposal should have been brought forward. He argued that the Chairperson had not asked who was opposing the proposal and asked who was in favour. He was thus concerned with procedure.

The Chairperson replied she had raised the amendment first but no one had said anything. She proposed that the voting was done again.

The Chairperson stated that there were two motions on the table. The first was the proposed amendment of Clause 4(2)(b). This version had a provision in which the phrase ‘historically diminished status’ had been deleted. Those opposing the reworded amendment were noted as being 10, those voting for the reworded amendment was one. There were two abstentions. [The DA later indicated it was not abstaining but opposing].

Mr van den Berg asked for the DA’s objection to be noted.

One member opposed the clause in its original form while 10 people voted in favour of the existing clause. Those abstaining were none.
The Chairperson declared that Clause 4(2) would come in the form of the existing clause in the working draft of the Bill.

Adoption of Amendments and parting thoughts
Mr van den Berg said other than the issue of clause 4 and the ombudsman the DA was happy with the rest of the proposals and changes. The DA had not gotten what they had wanted but the rest of the legal jargon was satisfactory.

Ms Morutoa stated that she had not been mandated by the ANC but she was satisfied with the rest of the amendments. She did not know if others had objections in other areas. She felt the document had addressed some of members’ concerns and should be adopted.

Mr Ntapane wanted to confirm that he agreed with all amendments except clause 4

Ms Moss stated that the meeting had been her first experience of a portfolio committee maneuvering along political party lines and not as a public entity. As people had conducted themselves in this manner, she would too. She agreed that the amendments be adopted.

DA objection
Mr van den Berg sought clarity as he was confused. He said that there had been voting in that there had been the original vote, then a point of order, then a second vote. He wanted to clarify that the original version was what had been adopted. He confirmed the version that had been adopted meant clause 4(2)(b) read ‘provided that at least two of the official languages identified must be of indigenous languages of historically diminished use and status’.

This was confirmed by the Chairperson and members.

Mr van den Berg went on to say that there was some confusion as the DA was against this proposal and not abstaining.

The Chairperson thanked members and said if they were happy with the drafting formulations, it could go on to become the A-list. She wanted to emphasize the Bill did not seek to destroy Afrikaans. This was an incorrect perception.

The meeting was adjourned.


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