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Apartheid had mercy on indigeneous languanges

10 April 2012, 11:48

The other day I was watching Gavin Esler of BBC-TV who was about to interview Angela Merkel, German chancellor.

Prior to the interview Esler informed viewers that he has already presented Frau Merkel with a gift of biscuit and tea already, he further apologized that the chancellor who speaks fluent English will only reply to questions in her mother tongue, Germany.

I was inspired, impressed and wished that leaders particularly Africans should also start speaking their languages in international forums.

It is disturbing to me at least that most political leaders speak their languages in the UN, but all Africans, bar our Arabian brothers in the North, read their prepared speeches in their colonial masters languages, this is in English, French or Portuguese.

Well maybe countries like Angola and Mozambique maybe excused as their European power, Portugal decreed that their dominions speak Portuguese only.

However here in South Africa apartheid regime, had mercy on indigenous languages, even though the then deputy Minister of Bantu Education, Andries Treunicht committed the worse blunder in the history of South Africa, when in 1976 he decreed that henceforth tuition in black schools was to be conducted in the medium of Afrikaans.

With the advantage of hindsight I will give Dr No (as he was infamously known,) credit in that at least he was familiar with the potency of language, albeit in his case it had disastrous consequences.

However current crop of political leaders are seemingly oblivious to the spoken word.

Why is it then, the elder statesman and leader of Inkatha leader Mangosuthu when addressing his followers deep down in Kwa-Zulu Natal still addresses them in English, when they will be happy following and understanding his narrative in Zulu.

Our former state president Nelson Mandela said: ‘If you speak to a person a language he understands, you will be speaking to his head, and if you speak to a person his language, you are speaking to his heart.”

One leader who has heeded this saying and practice it to her advantage is the inimitable Helen Zille, leader of Democratic Alliance.

This lady speaks Xhosa which has undoubtedly made her a hit among blacks, besides her penchant to break into toyi-toying.

Fellow statesmen and women when travelling abroad on taxpayers money insist on speaking your home languages, worry not as your message will be carried forward as there are always interpreters.

Another factor is that people think in their own language.

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