Home Opinion and Features Let’s talk: Public comment sought on sign language being made official

Let’s talk: Public comment sought on sign language being made official

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The public has been given an opportunity to make comments on the constitutional amendment that will see the sign language elevated into an official language.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and sign language interpreter Andiswa Gebashe during a national address from the Union Buildings. File picture: GCIS

THE PUBLIC has been given an opportunity to make comments on the constitutional amendment that will see the sign language elevated into an official language.

This emerged from the public notice published in the government gazette by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola.

“The purpose of the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill, 2022 (“the Bill”) is to amend section 6 of the Constitution in order to provide for the recognition of South African Sign Language as an official language of the Republic of South Africa,” Lamola said.

South has 11 official languages which are Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

Lamola said the comments on the proposed amendment to section 6 of the Constitution must be submitted not later than August 31.

The notice comes two months after Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said Cabinet has approved the publication of the eighteenth constitutional amendment bill for public comments.

Gungubele said at the time the amendment would give recognition to sign language as the twelfth official language of the country and will advance its cultural acceptance to affirm equal rights for all South Africans irrespective of their disabilities.

It is almost five years since Parliament resolved that the sign language should be the official language.

In 2017, Parliament resolved on the matter after its Constitutional Review Committee processed submissions made in 2015.

Submissions were received from the Deaf South Africa, among others, saying while the sign language was well recognised in the constitution and given a special status, it was not sufficient to enable deaf people to enjoy all constitutional rights.

Meanwhile, two submissions have been made to Parliament to consider Khilovedu and Kiswahili to be the next in line to receive official language status in the country.

The joint constitutional review committee said last month it received a presentation on submissions made last year to amend the Constitution.

In a statement, the committee said it received submissions that Khilovedu and Kiswahili be recognised as official languages in South Africa.

Kiswahili is the national language of Kenya and Tanzania and has received more recognition in many Arian countries.

Khilovedu is a language spoken in the country and is linked with the kingdom ruled by Rain Queen.

It has featured over the years in the submissions made to the committee.

Khilovedu was among the 15 submissions received in 2015 when the Holy Faith Mission Evangelical Church asked that it be designated as an official language.

In 2020, Khutso SK of Valodagoma NPC again asked for the recognition of Khilovedu as an official language.

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