Lesufi wrongly equates 'Afrikaans' with 'racist'

2019-09-26 08:58
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. (Sandile Ndlovu/Gallo)

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. (Sandile Ndlovu/Gallo)

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Gauteng MEC Panyaza Lesufi’s recent protest in writing against the formation of an independent Afrikaans language university deserves a response, if only to rectify some of the falsehoods and distortions that it attempts to perpetuate under the banner of non-racialism.

In the current South African context of a deeply troubled state, severely financially constrained, largely due to mismanagement and the outright criminal and corrupt activities of ANC leaders and ANC-deployed cadres in positions of public administration, it is mindboggling that Lesufi deems it appropriate to launch a vitriolic attack against the establishment of a new university that does not require state resources, and to base that attack solely on the institution’s language of instruction. Is it truly possible that an MEC of Education can be this small-minded and spiteful?

From his recent writing it is clear to me that Lesufi equates Afrikaans with racist. He writes that, to him, support for tertiary education in Afrikaans is equivalent to a hatred for democracy, it is a desecration of the grave of Beyers Naudé, and it is a disgrace to the Constitution of South Africa – the latter of which leads one to wonder if Lesufi has ever bothered to familiarise himself with the contents of the Constitution.

In my opinion all of these accusations are absolute nonsense. To equate South African citizens’ desire to have their children instructed in their mother tongue with a hatred for democracy, the desecration of a grave, and a disgrace to the Constitution, is more than a stretch. In my view it is, instead, a deliberate attempt to vilify all who speak and love Afrikaans, born of a deep-seated hatred for those same people, despite Lesufi’s protestations to the contrary.

In his writing, Lesufi notes that “this Afrikaans only university was conceived soon after the Constitutional Court saw nothing wrong with the universities of South Africa, Pretoria, Free State, Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom, in changing their language policies to accommodate all South Africans”.

Clearly the irony is lost on Lesufi that this statement supports the position of those who are building the Afrikaans language university and it opposes Lesufi’s own position that it is an act of racism.

Allow me to lead the MEC through this argument step by step: if the university was only conceived once Afrikaans had been ruled out as a tertiary language of instruction at South African universities, and not, instead, at the time when those same universities had become multiracial, then surely it follows that it is not the multiracial aspect of the universities that Afrikaans speakers were opposed to, but rather the fact that they are being denied tertiary education in their mother tongue. I know this is probably a surprising revelation for someone as indoctrinated by ANC ideology as Lesufi, but there it is: Afrikaans speakers did not resort to building their own university when people of all races were allowed to attend; they took the step only when their language rights were infringed upon. Is that racist behaviour?

Much of what Lesufi writes in his petulant protest is simply untrue or it is a distortion.

For example, it is a lie that Solidarity, a key role player in the establishment of the university, only represents Afrikaans speakers.

It is a distortion that “the overwhelming majority of our people, still live in squalor, […] because of the historic injustices of apartheid education”; has it crossed Lesufi’s mind that perhaps the already-mentioned maladministration of the state and the largescale theft of state resources that were meant for the upliftment of those very same people, all of this under ANC rule, has a lot to do with the perpetuation of the mentioned hardships?

It is nonsensical that the opening of a language-based university, “especially a language that was used to oppress”, can so offend Lesufi, only when the language in question is Afrikaans. Does he seriously suggest that English was not also used to oppress in pre-democracy South Africa? But clearly English language instruction suits the MEC just fine. Does this sound like the reasoning of someone who is not opposed to Afrikaans per se?

The establishment of a university that makes no claim to any state resources for its establishment and running will have obvious benefits for the state and the people of South Africa in general. The seats occupied by students who want to exercise their right to be taught in their mother tongue will leave additional seats available in English language universities. Lesufi is apparently blinded to this by his narrow-minded views.

The parents who decide to send their children to the Afrikaans language university will still have a portion of their tax contribution going towards the other universities, assuming that it can get past the sticky fingers of the ANC cadres in charge if these finances. What on earth, then, is there to lose?

Lesufi quoted the late former president Mandela when the latter said that “no one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate …”

I agree with this statement.

Here is my view on how people “learn to hate”. They learn to hate from people like Panyaza Lesufi. People who go out of their way to divide and who refuse to allow others their place in the sun even if it comes at no cost to the former.

Mr Lesufi, Afrikaans-speaking South Africans of all races who insist on their right to receive world-class tertiary education in their mother tongue will not be dissuaded by your misguided, shallow rhetoric.

Unlike you, we are not filled with hatred. When you close the door on us and our language, we open one ourselves. We have always helped ourselves. We will continue to do so, no matter what obstacles you attempt to put in our path. We shall always strive to go forward. We look back only to learn from the past, not to dwell on it and lazily use it as a scapegoat for our own failures and shortcomings. If you, our government, refuse to provide for us, we will provide for ourselves. We shall overcome and we shall prosper, whether you like it or not. We have always done so.

God help us all, indeed, with people like you in charge of the education of our children.

Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg

Assagay, KZN

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