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#SONA should be inclusive and delivered in a mix of African languages


Modibe Modiba is and Africanist, a writer, a current affairs junkie as well as a student at The University of South Africa studying towards a BA International Relations degree.

Most South Africans neither speak English nor understand the language, so why is our SONA conducted in English?

As I was listening to the State Of The Nation Address (SONA) delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa, I sat there as a young African man watching how the president fluently and swiftly went about his speech. But I was bothered by the question throughout:

Why isn’t SONA conducted in a mixture of African languages?”

Statistics provided by Stats SA show that we are a country with about 56 million people, among whom the most spoken language isn’t English. So why is our SONA conducted in English? If the people you’re claiming to provide this important address to cannot speak nor understand the language, then who is this address meant for?

As a South African, I would love to see my president conduct SONA in a mixture of African languages. This is very important, taking into consideration that South Africans are beginning to debate about decolonisation and how this important topic is finally gaining resonance among many citizens.

In the debate, it would be very ignorant not to take into consideration that English is considered a universal language and that its predominantly the primary language of business, used by many of us outside our homes due to colonialism and the fact that the economy is still in white hands.

If we claim to say that we’re a democratic state where the majority rules, what happens to the majority of South Africans who don’t speak English? Are we now saying that this democracy that they voted into power, works better for the minority than it does for the majority? Shouldn’t we make SONA inclusive of the majority?

The most spoken language in our beloved country is isiZulu – with 24.6% indicating it is their home language, compared with 8.3% whose home language is English, according to government data obtained via Stats SAs Community Survey 2016.

Now the reason I suggest that SONA be conducted in a mix of African languages instead of English or in fact isiZulu as an African language, is based on our tribalistic culture. Like it or not we as South Africans are still tribalists, we still refer to each other as Zulus, Xhosas or Pedis, and thus perpetuate a colonial-apartheid-like thinking.

If former president Jacob Zuma had delivered his SONA in isiZulu, would he have not been attacked for being a tribalist?

In the future I’d love to see SONA being more inclusive to our African languages. After all, we are African and living in Africa.

But hey, who am I to suggest this? I’m just another writer raising his concerns in English, not appealing to many of my brothers and sisters who might not understand what I’ve just written. DM


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