African culture, language 'facing extinction'

Government’s failure to recognise the powers and function of traditional leaders is causing African languages and heritage to face extinction, National House of Traditional Leaders chairman Inkosi Mpiyezintombi Mzimela said on Saturday.

In a speech prepared for delivery during the quinquennial celebrations of Inkosi Madzikane ka Zulu—founder of the Bhaca tribe—at Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape, he said African children in South Africa “are begging to have confidence in foreign languages”, and were forgetting about who they were.

“We are therefore still faced with African cultural extinction as long as English, Afrikaans, Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish are made the official languages of African people,” he said.

African people could restore their culture only if Parliament compelled people by means of legislation to use African indigenous languages in government and in the workplace.

“We must remember that most African people are today suffering from half-baked bilingualism; they can neither use African languages as effective tools of communication nor other languages.”

African culture would remain stifled and strangled as long as the languages of former colonisers in South Africa remained the medium of instructions in schools, technikons and universities.

With South Africa’s “political emancipation” from centuries of colonial and apartheid rule in 1994, traditional leaders were hoping they would take centre stage in helping government address the massive backlogs.

“To our surprise, it looks like our government is hell bent to follow the colonialists in making sure that the institution as such is annihilated once and for all on the face of the earth,” Mzimela said.

There was a great need for traditional leaders in Southern Africa, who were closest to millions of African people and thus custodians of African culture, to unite.

“A Parliament of Traditional Leaders of Africa must be established to act as a watchdog in matters of landlessness, culture and economic development in the rural areas of Africa.

“I must point out that we have already established a Coalition of Traditional Leaders, which has been useful in uniting African people at grassroots level as well as Amakhosi in general,” he said.

“We must struggle for making African languages which are carriers of our culture to be the medium of instructions in our schools, from primary schools to university levels.

“This is what is happening in all the countries of the world that are proud of their heritage and know who they are,” Mzimela said. ‒ Sapa

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