Pan South African Language Board

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

Ad Hoc Committee on the Chapter Nine Bodies and PanSALB

31 January 2007

Prof A Asmal (ANC)

Relevant documents:
PANSALB Response to Questionnaire
PANSALB Annual Report 2005/05
Pan South African Language Board Act 59 of 1995
Pan South African Language Board Amendment Act 10 of 1999
Press Release after this meeting (see Appendix)

The Committee, set up to inquire into the work of the Chapter Nine bodies of the Constitution, met with the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB). Some of the major topics brought up in the meeting was PanSALB’s visibility, their budget, their power with regards to implementation and the efficacy with which they are achieving their mandate.

The Chair explained the function of the Committee as an inquiry into the overall performance of the constitutionally established bodies. It was clarified that Pan South African Language Board was not a Chapter Nine nor Ten body but rather a Chapter Six body. He noted that the Committee had only received PANSALB's response document recently and could not be brought up to date with it in such a small time, thus it would rather directly question the PanSALB delegation. He then asked the following questions; firstly, why the response document did not focus on the constitutional provision that "all official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably". Secondly, he asked why the PanSALB used the terms ‘language equality’ and not ‘equity of language’, as was written in the Constitution.

Dr E Sambo, PanSALB Acting CEO, replied that in 2003 it was decided to use the PanSALB Act as the guideline, which stipulated “equal treatment of all languages in South Africa”.

The Chair asked why PanSALB’s work was determined by the Act and not by the Constitution.

Dr Sambo responded that the PanSALB Act was more specific than the broad ideals in the Constitution. PanSALB considered practicality issues and took expenses involved into account. 

Mr S Dithebe (ANC) asked if PanSALB had worked with other organisations to promote mother tongue education and, if so, what measures had been put in place to ensure such education.

Dr Sambo replied that they had a close relationship with the Department of Education. PanSALB has a programme called Parent Involvement Project that involves parents of learners. Schools are also consulted and communicated with. The 2006 PanSALB Annual Report reported that no more than 400 complaints, mostly from the Afrikaans speaking communities, had been received that year.

Mr Dithebe asked if PanSALB had made a comparative analysis of the type of language complaints made to the South African Human Rights Commission. Was there a complaints procedure in place so that the public could access PanSALB and how frequently was this service used?

Dr Sambo replied that there had not been any comparative analyses made but there was a complaint procedure in place.

Mr Dithebe asked what PanSALB’s relationship with the Department of Arts and Culture was like and did PanSALB’s services overlap.

Dr Sambo replied that the relationship was not cordial and that the Department of Arts and Culture and PanSALB did fight over territory. There was a need for the demarcation of roles but one also had to learn to work together. PanSALB had met with the Department of Arts and Culture but the meeting was not fruitful. PanSALB considers language development and the Department works with policy.

The Chair asked what had been done about the provision of language facilities.

Dr Sambo explained that PanSALB did not consider it their role to create such centres or facilities but rather it created the policies to ensure that languages are treated fairly.

The Chair asked if there was a national policy on translations and interpretations. Did we have a facility that trained South Africans in their national languages.

Dr Sambo explained that he was not aware of such a policy but PanSALB and the South African Qualifications Authority were involved in developing a standard generating body for translating, interpreting and language editing.

Mr Dithebe asked whether PanSALB had helped other organisations in their procedure on the use of national languages.

Dr Sambo explained that all institutions PanSALB had approached had been checked for a language policy and when the organisations came up lacking, they were assisted in developing a language policy. PanSALB also helped organisations who approach them seeking help in developing a language policy.

Mr J Van De Merwe (IFP) asked whether PanSALB was a frustrated body because it could not reach its objectives since it had too many restrictions from the state.

Dr Sambo explained that it would be unfair to throw the baby out with the bath water. There was frustration but there was also progress. There was frustration with implementation and about receiving response from Parliament. 

The Chair clarified that there was success with some government departments.

Mr Van Der Merwe reiterated that there was very little visible success in the public eye. Not very many signposts were in languages other than English. What was the function of PanSALB?

Mr S Mkhatshwa, PanSALB Board Member, said that PanSALB was promoting multilingualism, that was the mandate of PanSALB. People need to be made aware about the importance of their language. Before the country can successfully implement language policies, one had to change the attitudes of the public.

Mr Dithebe asked if PanSALB saw itself as successful in maintaining language and usage statistics in the country so far. The Chair clarified this question by asking for PanSALB’s deliverables

Dr Sambo explained that in the past ten years PanSALB have produced dictionaries in all eleven languages. It has been working on producing the national currency in all eleven languages; work has been done with Absa to produce ATMs in all eleven languages. PanSALB had also been working with Microsoft to produce software in all eleven languages

Prof H Thipa, PanSALB Chairperson, explained that in order to assess the success of PanSALB, one could not look only at the use of indigenous languages but also at the attitude towards languages in this country. There was not much research done on why indigenous languages were being phased out and replaced with English

Ms C Johnson (ANC) asked whether, in the response document, when the PanSALB delegation referred to previously marginalised languages, was it a reference to the nine official African languages but not Khoi, San, Nama and others like it.

Dr Sambo replied that, for the most part, they mean the nine African languages.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) referred to the memorandum of understanding with the Commission for the Promotion of Protection of Rights and Culture. Should not the signing of the memorandum be prioritised?

Dr Sambo explained that the delay was due to protocol. There was much red tape that delayed the process.

Ms M Smuts (DA) revealed that PanSALB received about R27 million annually and that ten million of that was spent on the production of dictionaries.

Dr Sambo replied that the figures that Ms Smuts had given were accurate.

The Chair asked why PanSALB did not have a chief financial officer. There was a large cost and deficit that went with setting up regional offices, was this cost reasonable? What did regional managers do that was not done by the office staff?

Dr Sambo explained that setting up regional offices was a once-off cost and they were important because there was a difficulty in reaching people at a grassroots level.

Ms Smuts asked if PanSALB sent their annual budget request to the National Treasury or to the Department of Arts and Culture.

Dr Sambo explained that they approach the Treasury and the Finance Minister and did not go through the Department of Arts and Culture.

Ms Smuts asked if there was more recent research as to the statistic that 22% of people in this country cannot understand if they are addressed in English.

Dr Sambo replied that there had not been any follow up.

Ms Smuts asked if PanSALB was aware of the service ‘’

Dr Sambo said that they were aware of this organisation.

Mr Simmons (ANC) asked PanSALB to comment on their external incomes and interest.

Dr Sambo explained that PanSALB has investments and they make use of the interest.

Ms Johnson noted that PanSALB runs various projects and that grants are given to these projects through the National Research Foundation. Did the funds come from PanSALB’s budget?

Dr Sambo explained that the funds came from PanSALB’s budget but he could not give exact figures.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) asked for clarity on the current budgetary process.

Dr Sambo replied that the various components submit their needs and a discussion was held with the heads of those components. They then liaised with the board without going through a finance department.

The Chair asked how PanSALB coped without a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

Dr Sambo explained that the deputy director was responsible for finances.

Dr J Delport (DA) asked for comments on the relationship that PanSALB had with the Department of Arts and Culture as well as the Executive.

Mr Mkhatshwa said that many of the problems experienced were personal and that the person responsible had left PanSALB

Dr Delport asked for a comment on the sense in the report that PanSALB was being sidelined by the Department of Arts and Culture.

Dr Sambo clarified that the relationship between the Department of Arts and Culture and PANSALB was unhealthy but it was personal and the difficulties had been overcome.

Mr Van De Merwe asked what would be considered a violation of a language right. What steps could PanSALB take against violators? Could it act against violators in the private sector as well or only governmental bodies?

Dr Sambo explained that violations were relative to situations. An example would be, if a government department did not offer necessary forms in a requested language, that government department would be violating a language right. There was very little one can do to force the private sector to change their language policy.

Mr Van De Merwe asked what steps were taken after a complaint was lodged?

Dr Sambo replied that PanSALB approached the party complained against and explained to them what South African legislation prescribes.

Mr Van De Merwe asked what PanSALB’s Hearing committee is.

Dr Sambo replied that it was a committee made up of board members who essentially decides which cases are valid complaints and need to be dealt with. Both parties give their sides and the hearing committee decides which case was valid and then makes the necessary recommendations.

The Chair asked how PanSALB monitors, in which areas they monitor and what is the function of the monitoring.

Dr Sambo explained that monitoring was used to follow up on recommendations by the hearing committee.

Ms Johnson asked PanSALB whether they had considered approaching Parliament's Joint Monitoring Committee on People with Disabilities when a problem arises in a particular department.

Dr Sambo explained that the Joint Monitoring Committee dealt with language complaints in so far as it involved sign language. The port of call for an official language of South Africa would be the Department of Arts and Culture

Ms Smuts asked against which law did PanSALB adjudicate and decide on its standards. Was it not PanSALB’s proactive duty to implement language policies and repercussions for violations thereof?

Dr Sambo agreed that it was in their mandate to become involved in language policy but it was difficult to intervene if one was not invited.

Mr Van De Merwe rephrased Ms Smuts original questions, asking which law did one contravene and how did PanSALB hold "contravenors" responsible.

Dr Sambo replied that a violator would contravene Section 6 of the Constitution. A copy of the act was given to the violator.

The Chair asked how PanSALB resolved the issue of separate responsibilities if for ten years they had had no policy and board members had been encroaching on the roles of the staff.

Dr Sambo explained that there were talks about the board’s role and its limitations but no policy was set up to define the borders of either party’s role.

The Chair asked what internal conflict resolution procedure was in place as well as procedure for staff complaints or disciplinary measures.

Dr Sambo responded that they did have these procedures in place.

The Chair asked if there was any policy on disclosure of external income.

Dr Sambo said that there was no such procedure.

The Chair asked if PanSALB has tried to market itself in order to become visible to the public.

Prof Thipa explained that PanSALB did have pamphlets, banners and even radio coverage. However unfortunately the marketing person had left PanSALB and no one had picked up their job.

The Chair showed that PanSALB’s budget had increased enormously over the last few years and asked for a justification for this massive spending. The Chair asked what new ventures would be started to justify the new budget increases

Dr Sambo explained that projects were extended over time because there was not enough manpower to see them through effectively. Prof Thipa added that they did not start with qualified, fully staffed offices since the beginning and thus they had been working up from there.

The Chair pointed out vacancies that PanSALB had not filled for years such as CEO, translator, librarian. Why were these posts still vacant?

Prof Thipa explained that they had found a candidate for both CEO and Chief Financial Officer. For the other vacancies, there was to be an inquiry as to why so many posts had been deserted and then they shall be filled.

Dr Sambo explained that the CEO was required to be involved in the hiring process. Since PanSALB had not had a CEO for such a long time, it was difficult to fill other important posts.

The Chair asked for proof in writing that PanSALB liaised directly with the Treasury and the department. He added the question of whether the staff complement included the nine managers and the staff they had in office in each province

Dr Sambo replied that the staff complement was all inclusive. He added that only the provincial officers were employed full time.

The Chair asked what the function or the provincial offices and if the delegation and present it to the committee in writing. What was the annual salaries of the full time board members?

Dr Sambo responded that all board members were part time.

The Chair explained that this was the only chapter nine body without permanent board members.

Mr Van Der Merwe asked whether PanSALB had considered a communication system where there were no words on signboards but rather symbols and letters.

Mr Dithebe commented that the PANSALB board realised that there was a problem with their actions in terms of the Kings Report on corporate governance, and asked if the board was going to do something about it.

Dr Sambo responded by explaining that in a meeting held by the board in November it was suggested and warmly accepted by the PANSALB staff that the board was responsible for governance and the CEO was responsible for management

Mr Van De Merwe expressed discomfort at the staff complement of the provincial offices and asked if it was due to the workload being light.

Dr Sambo explained the incremental amount that PanSALB had been receiving. They had requested money first to establish the offices and then to appoint the provincial managers.  The temporary offices would then have to absorb new funds as well as take the bulk of the work from the head office to the provinces and the result could be a leaner head office and a stronger provincial presence

Mr Van Der Merwe asks for further particulars as to the spending on the regional offices.

The meeting was adjourned with thanks from the Chair for the co-operation of the PanSALB delegation.




Adhoc Committee on Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions holds bilateral with Pan South African Language Board




Parliament, 31 January 2007


The Adhoc Committee on Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions today held a three-hour meeting with members of the Pan South African Language Board, to review its work. The meeting forms part of the committee’s review of institutions supporting constitutional democracy. PanSALB is not included as a Chapter 9 institution; however, the committee’s mandate makes provision for it to review related bodies.


The delegation from PanSALB comprised of E Sambo, Acting Chief Executive Officer; S Mkhatshwa, Deputy Chairperson; H Thipa, Chairperson; M Malope; and H Rademeyer.


The Adhoc Committee directed specific questions to the panel based on a self-assessment questionnaire submitted by the Board. The Committee enquired on the following issues:


Role and Functions of Institution: Discrepancy between provisions made in the Constitution and the PanSALB Act, and its impact on the Board’s work; deliverables; promotion of mother-tongue education and multilingualism; procedure for dealing with language rights complaints; and progress made in providing interpretation and translation services.


Relationship with other bodies: The committee also enquired about the Board’s relationship with the Department of Arts and Culture, Government Departments, the Executive and Parliament.


Institutional Governance: The committee highlighted the lack of policy dealing with issues of institutional governance; mechanism to deal with internal conflicts and disclosure of business interests.


Interaction with the public: They also enquired about the effectiveness of mechanisms currently used to raise public awareness.


Financial and other resource matters: Increase in PanSALB’s budget under review; key unfilled vacancies; the role of regional office; and reporting lines. 



Issued by:

Lerato Monethi               and                   Jackie Gibbs

E-mail:                    E-mail:


On behalf of Kader Asmal, Chairperson of Adhoc Committee on Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions


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