Afrikaans essential as requirement in appointing candidate attorneys

The civil rights organisation AfriForum is of the opinion that Afrikaans remains an essential requirement in the appointing of candidate attorneys. The organisation is reacting to a statement by the Legal Practice Council (LPC) and the Black Lawyers Association (BLA) condemning the requirement of Afrikaans in advertisements for candidate attorneys. According to an article in The Star yesterday (14 July 2020), the LPC and BLA argue that English should be the only requirement.

According to Alana Bailey, Head of Cultural Affairs at AfriForum, 13,5% of the country’s population is Afrikaans-speaking, according to the 2011 census. It ensures sufficient work for Afrikaans-speaking legal practitioners.

Legislation like the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 requires for example that contracts must be drawn up in a language that is completely intelligible for the signatory. Candidate attorneys with no experience in languages other than English will not be able to meet this requirement. Many legal practices have mainly Afrikaans clientele who need documents such as business contracts, agreements, marriage contracts, last wills and estate planning. These documents must be discussed and delivered in Afrikaans.

AfriForum is of the opinion that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng did not have the constitutional or legal authority to unilaterally announced that English would be the only language of court records. Complaints against this unilateral announcement are considered locally as well as internationally.

Bailey also points out that the introduction of alternative dispute settlements in lieu of court proceedings, especially in the case of commercial settlements, offers an important opportunity for Afrikaans attorneys to act in the interest of their clients in their own languages. 

Unfortunately, the statements by the LPC and BLA build on the fallacy that Afrikaans-speaking people are mostly white, whereas the majority of Afrikaans-speakers are in fact from other races. Through their demands for English, these institutions are not working towards empowerment and transformation, but are continuing racial as well as language discrimination based on their own ideological agendas.

“The Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling at the beginning of July in favour of Afrikaans as language of instruction at the University of South Africa points to an increase in the South African consciousness for the interest of multilingualism in South African institutions and the language rights of Afrikaans-speaking people. The LPC and BLA would do well to take note of this,” Bailey concludes.

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