Leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) in Mpumalanga have set a date and time to sit down with the marginalised Mapulana tribe from Bushbuckridge to discuss how their language can become recognised.
In May, the Mapulana Renaissance Group (MRG) wrote to the ANC as a policy-maker, pleading with the party to consider amending the Mpumalanga Languages Act of 2014, which only recognises Siswati, Isindebele, English and Afrikaans as the official languages spoken in the province.
MRG secretary Jerry Mashile told the ANC that the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB) had found that there was agreement within the language body that Sepulana was not a dialect of any Sotho language but a ‘community language’ which was in the final stages of becoming an official language.
Mashile said although PANSALB had not developed a template to promote a language from community to official, there was agreement that Sepulana was going to be a test case.
“During a consultative process held at Ehlanzeni Conference Centre a civil rights group Bana Ba Tau Setlhano raised the concern about the exclusion of Sepulana from the Bill.
“At the end, the ANC-led Mpumalanga legislature adopted into law an Act that did not take into
consideration the linguistic landscape of the country whereby AmaSwati, Amandebele, Mapulana, Amashangana, Bapedi, Amazulu, English and Afrikaners are residents. The Act endorsed Siswati, Isindebele, English and Afrikaans as languages of the province of Mpumalanga,” Mashile told the ANC.
According to Mashile, it has been nine years since they raised objections with provincial government authorities about the exclusion of Sepulana.
“It has been nine years since they promised to return with a suitable response and next year, we are going to our sixth national elections without any remedy from the government.
“We are painfully aware that the fight waged by the ANC against the Apartheid government was for restorative justice, which should denote restoring to its original form that was taken arbitrarily from the Natives,” he said.
MRG members argued that the exclusion of Sepulana has hampered the chances of academic excellence for children who speak Sepulana at home but write Sepedi at school.
They said Sepulana suffered when the Lebowa homeland was established in 1972 and Sepedi was accorded official status over Sepulana, Khelobedu, Setokwa, Sehananwa, Seroka, Sephalaborwa, Sekoni and others.
“When Bushbuckridge was a political part of Limpopo, language practitioners in that province
argued against restorative justice with flimsy fiction that Sepulana was a dialect of Sepedi. They argued that they can’t have two Sotho languages as the official language in Limpopo because children in Mapulaneng were already instructed in Sepedi.
“Bushbuckridge is no longer part of Limpopo and Mpumalanga does not have a Sotho language which is a mother tongue and used in school instruction. Mapulana children perform badly in school because they are one of many in the country not instructed in their mother tongue,” Mashile wrote.
ANC secretary Muzi Chirwa welcomed the meeting between MRG and the party.
However, the meeting, which was arranged for this week Thursday, was briefly postponed due to the ANC’s election campaign processes.
In a letter African Times has seen, Chirwa apologised for moving the dates from this week to next week Monday.
“Kindly be informed that the meeting with the ANC arranged for Thursday, 20th of July 2023 is postponed due to National in Depth Campaign Management Training Workshop scheduled from the 20th – 22nd July 2023.
“The meeting is rescheduled for Monday, 24th July 2023, ANC Provincial Office, January “Che” Masilela House in Mbombela starting at 10h00. We would like to apologise for the inconvenience we might have caused,” Chirwa wrote.