Speaking out: Modjadji royal family calls for Khelobedu to be SA's 12th official language

2019-02-01 07:11
Premier Stan Mathabatha. (Sandile Ndlovu, Gallo Images, Sowetan)

Premier Stan Mathabatha. (Sandile Ndlovu, Gallo Images, Sowetan)

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The call for Khelobedu to be made the 12th official language of South Africa has resurfaced.

This time, the Modjadji royal family and council have pleaded with Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha and President Cyril Ramaphosa to make their language official.

According to a report by The Citizen, the plea from the royal family, popularly known for its alleged rain-making powers, stems from the fact that the community’s children got the short end of the stick due to their language not being official.

According to the chairperson of the council, John Malatju, former president Nelson Mandela had advanced the family and their clan’s status, but had not gone as far as giving the language official status.

"Children often comprehend better when they speak in their own language, but that is not the case with Balobedu-speaking children.

"They are usually forced to translate Khelobedu into Sepedi when they sit exams. That is why some of them fail their first language; when they get into exam rooms they start to bite their tongues, because Sepedi is not their mother tongue," The Citizen quoted Malatji as saying.

The premier’s office told News24 on Thursday that the call by the family had been noted and would be communicated to relevant officials in government.

READ: It's education first for Queen Modjadji 'because the world is modern'

"Indeed, their call has been made and it has been noted by the premier and we will take it to the president, who will then invoke the necessary process if needs be," Mathabatha’s spokesperson Kenny Mathivha said.

While Mathivha said the family has been calling for the language to be official for years now, he said the premier had no powers to declare Khelobedu an official language.

"It should be known, that its not the province that declares [a] language. [A] language is declared by several committees, parliamentary committees, committee on language, linguistics and religion…," Mathivha said.

He said there had also been requests from the Khoisan and Nama people that needed to be considered, as they also wanted their languages to be made official.

Mathivha said the notion that a language was spoken by a population of more than a million was not the only factor to look at when considering a official status.

The paper reported that the family and the council had previously written to Mathabatha, as well as former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, but with little success.

According to government newspaper Vukuzenzele, when Ramaphosa attended the coronation ceremony of the Balobedu queen at Mokwakwaila Stadium in Bolobedu, Limpopo, in 2018, he had promised to make Khelobedu an official South African language.

During his address Ramaphosa is said to have reaffirmed government’s commitment to the restoration of the honour and dignity of traditional leadership.

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Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  stan mathabatha  |  polokwane  |  culture  |  language
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