SAPS NCape language instruction conflicts with Constitution – Solidarity

Movement embarks on major litigation to fight 'irrational' English only rule

Solidarity embarks on major litigation against controversial SAPS language instruction 

1 June 2017

Solidarity today announced that it would take the language policy of the SAPS in the Northern Cape to the High Court. This follows after Northern Cape Deputy Provincial Commissioner issued a directive on 5 September 2016 in terms of which all statements made by the public have to be taken down in English as from that date onwards. Police members are also expected to translate all statements made in Afrikaans into English. Police members who fail to obey the instruction could face disciplinary charges.

According to Anton van der Bijl, head of Solidarity’s Centre for Fair Labour Practices, Solidarity’s application is calling for the instruction to be set aside based on the fact that it is in conflict with the SAPS’s own language policy as well as with the Constitution. “We submit this application based on the irrationality of the decision and also on the grounds of it being impractical. According to Statistics South Africa 53,8% of the Northern Cape population prefers Afrikaans as first language, while 33% of the population is Tswana-speaking. Only 3,4% of the population is English speaking. From a practical point of view, the use of English as language medium in the Northern Cape does not make sense,” Van der Bijl said.

According to Van der Bijl, this is once again an example of an impractical and irrational decision taken without regard to the public. “It is quite frankly shocking that the decision was taken without considering its practical effects and feasibility. We are now facing a situation where the public will not receive proper service and one in which members of the police will find themselves in the unenviable position of having to act as interpreters without having the necessary qualifications and competencies. The possibility of mistakes creeping into statements becomes all the more likely,” Van der Bijl explained.

Papers will be served on the SAPS later today and the SAPS would then be given a certain period within which to oppose the application, should they wish to do so.

Issued by Anton van der Bijl, Head: Solidarity Centre for Fair Labour Practices, 1 June 2017