Afrikaans an African Language, Says Zuma

PRETORIA – After a meeting with the leaders of some of South Africa’s universities on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma said that while it was the right of all students to protest, they should do it responsibly.

Zuma also said that Afrikaans was as African as South Africa’s other official languages, which immediately started a debate on Twitter.

Protests have hit several universities, starting in March, when a statue of Rhodes was desecrated at the University of Cape Town. More recently, especially in KwaZulu Natal, protests have been held, allegedly over fees and shortages of accommodation, while at Stellenbosch protests have taken place over the use of Afrikaans, which some protestors alleged was being used to keep some students out of the university.

Zuma said in a statement after the meeting at the Union Buildings that the right to protest and to voice grievances and opinions “should be exercised with utmost responsibility, ensuring that the rights of other South Africans are not violated in the process”.

According to one news report, Zuma also said Afrikaans is as African as the rest of the country’s official languages, and that transformation criticism should not be targeted at the Afrikaans language, but rather at how it is used in institutions.

“(Afrikaans) must not isolate itself, in the manner in which it behaves as a language or those who are speaking the language”, Zuma was quoted saying. “Because then you are making it to be a subject of controversy, it is part of the African language.”