Afrikaans to be reinstated as medium of teaching, learning at Unisa after AfriForum's ConCourt victory

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Moeketsi Mamane
  • AfriForum took Unisa to court after the institution adopted a language policy that phased out teaching and learning in Afrikaans five years ago.
  • Unisa approached the Constitutional Court after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled in AfriForum's favour in that the policy was unconstitutional.
  • The apex court upheld the SCA's ruling with costs.  

The Constitutional Court has given Unisa until the start of the 2023 academic year to revise its language policy which did away with teaching and learning in Afrikaans. 

In a unanimous judgment handed down on Wednesday, the ConCourt upheld a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) which found Unisa's decision to discontinue teaching and learning in Afrikaans was in contravention of Section 29(2) of the Constitution, which deals with the right to receive an education in an official language or language of choice. 

"In this context, Unisa was constraint to justify the decision it took by demonstrating that it had applied its minds to the considerations in section 29(2) and that it complied with the prescripts of that section," it found. 

The ConCourt said there was no evidence Unisa applied the section when making the decision to change its policy in 2016.

It is plain that neither the Senate nor the council had regard to information relevant to any assessment of reasonable practicality. The evidence simply did not bear up Unisa's contentions on equity, on cost or the dwindling demand for Afrikaans or on demographics.

Mojalefa Motalane, who represented Unisa in the case, welcomed the ruling that would give it time to change the policy. 

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"We are yet to take instructions from our client Unisa, but as the legal team, we are fairly happy with the fact that the Constitutional Court exercised quite a bit of wisdom to suspend its order and give our client an opportunity to make a decision as to whether it will revert to its old policy or decide to introduce a new policy all together which will give it an opportunity to follow all the right processes in compliance with the Constitution," he said. 

AfriForum also welcomed the ruling.

"AfriForum is very pleased with the outcome. This is not only a confirmation for Afrikaans as a language of teaching and learning but also for all other languages," said Marjorie van Schalkwyk, its attorney-on-record. 

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