Recognition of South African Sign Language as Official Language: consideration of DEAFSA submission

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


16 March 2007

Chairperson: Dr E Schoeman (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Audio Recording of the Meeting

The submission made by the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DEAFSA) on 16 February 2007 was discussed.  The Committee agreed that a formal resolution would be drafted for discussion at the next meeting.

The Chairperson began by stating that the Committee received a submission from DEAFSA on 16 February 2007 asking the Committee to assist with instituting sign language as a twelfth official language.  The Chairperson stated that he had had a discussion with the Minister in the Office of the Presidency as well as with the Minister of Arts and Culture. The DEAFSA request was being handled accordingly, its merit was recognised as well as its implications. The Minister of Arts and Culture suggested that the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) has not been doing its work properly. The Chairperson suggested that a task team perhaps be set up with the Ministries of Arts and Culture, Justice and Constitutional Development and the Presidency, in order to look into the matter.

Mr A Gaum (ANC) was of the view that a decision could be taken on that day. The Committee could only note the request and that it has merit as well as implications. There should be a process to further delve into the matter. He reiterated that a decision could not be made at that time.

Mr F Beukman (ANC) agreed with Mr Gaum.

Mr C Burgess (ANC) felt there was much missing from the submission. The statistics were not clear enough. There were several languages in South Africa that were spoken by a number of people that were not considered amongst the country’s official languages.  He noted that simply analysing the figures would not be fair, but that the matter required further study.

The Chairperson commented that the matter had to be handled in a principled manner, as from that point of view the Committee would adopt a moral stance to hear the case and accommodate the needs of DEAFSA.  However, if the Constitution was changed it might not translate into practicality, and the current situation itself might in fact not change.  It would result in every deaf person requiring a translator. This would not be seen as fruitful if it was only changed in the Constitution.  The Committee should instead acknowledge the case and then accommodate the actual need. It would have to be practical in order to be accommodated in the Constitution.

Mr Gaum agreed with the Chairperson. Much of DEAFSA’s input was worthy of merit and can be taken further. PANSALB however has not done so. He suggested that PANSALB should be the champion of the interests of DEAFSA in this matter. He felt that the Committee should communicate with PANSALB and request it to consider DEAFSA’s request.

The Chairperson stated that nothing prohibited the Committee from directly contacting PANSALB.

Mr Gaum asked to what extent PANSALB was adhering to the provision in the Constitution.

The Chairperson responded that one of the problems was that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) stated that PANSALB had not been doing its job.  A formal resolution on the matter should be drafted by the Committee, for discussion at its next meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.


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