The South African government dedicated this year’s Human Rights Day commemoration to the promotion of indigenous languages, including sign language.
On Thursday in Sharpeville, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “We have dedicated this year’s Human Rights Day celebrations to the promotion of indigenous languages as a fundamental part of building a human rights culture.”.
“We want to do so because language is a fundamental part in building a human rights culture. This coincides with the United Nations declaration of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. In according with all our languages and the respect they are due, we are affirming the dignity, worth and humanity of every South African.”
Ramaphosa said the commemoration is aimed at highlighting efforts to conserve languages that are in danger of becoming extinct, such as the Nama language of the Khoisan people.
Primary schools in the Northern Cape have started teaching the Nama language, and a language rule book is also being finalized by the Pan South African Language Board, he said.
“A language rule book is being finalised by the Pan South African Language Board. The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities is actively involved in resuscitating Isihlubi, Isibhaca, Northern Ndebele and other indigenous languages,” Ramaphosa said.
“As part of our commitment to empower and foster respect for the rights of people with disabilities, a proposal has been submitted to parliament to elevate South African Sign Language to the status of an official language.”
He added: “Bound by our belief in our Constitution, we are working towards a country that is united, non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and free. As the government of the people, for the people, by the people, respect for human rights is the bedrock of our actions … Working together, we have transformed South Africa from a society driven by a race-based, exclusionary and divisive ideology, to a democracy where all citizens enjoy equal rights before the law.”
South Africa commemorates the 1960 massacre that took place in Sharpeville, Vereeniging on this day.
At least 69 people were shot dead by the apartheid police for protesting against pass laws.
The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) had proposed anti-pass law campaigns across the country starting on 21 March 1960.
Various political parties held their own commemoration in Sharpeville.
– Additional reporting by African News Agency (ANA)